Invitation by Helena Drnovšek Zorko, Ambassador, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Slovenia

Helena Drnovšek Zorko is Head of Division for International Cultural Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Slovenia

Europe Lost and Found is a long-term, interdisciplinary and multi-national research project into the economic, political and cultural geographies of future Europe, initiated by Marjetica Potrč and Kyong Park after their journey to the cities of the Western Balkans.

It begins in the summer of 2006 with the Lost Highway Expedition, a journey through the cities of the Western Balkans. In 2007, Ljubljana exhibitions will follow in Moderna galerija and the Škuc Gallery, while in 2008 the journey will proceed through the cities of Western Europe.

The first phase of the project, Lost Highway Expedition, in search of possible models for European society in the Balkans, explores the cities along the Lost Highway, a metaphor for the lost ideals of "unity and brotherhood", as the highway was called in times of former Yugoslavia. Beginning in Ljubljana and continuing through Zagreb, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Skopje, Prishtina, Tirana, Podgorica, and Sarajevo, it consists of two days of events in each city, with guided tours, presentations and forums conducted by local experts, workshops between travelers and local participants, discussions, exhibitions, radio shows, and picnics, as well as other possible events organised by the host cities.

It is a special challenge for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be invited to join a project carried out by civil society, in which the only firm rule appears to be that there are no rules. It is thus necessary to carefully maintain a sensitive balance between politics and civil society, and to carefully explore the sensitive territory of co-existence between the two - can politics exist in this kind of free, open, challenging, undertaking; can it resist the temptation of interference, of trying to impose its own views, and be unafraid of the answers? And can, on the other hand, the project retain its integrity, working hand in hand with politics; can the formal and the informal work together in a common search for survival?

ELF/LHE work openly, without preconceptions, on the basis of autonomous integration, thus allowing the participants to join freely with their ideas and to invite others. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the partners in the project, works as one of the attractors, putting emphasis on topics that are of special relevance to the European society as a whole. One of these seems to be the definition of the Western Balkans, or redefining the term of 'Balkanisation' as something positive, which can serve as a parallel to similar developments in Western Europe, or even more, as an answer to the future of a common Europe.

I wish to invite other countries, ministries and institutions to join this exploration, to find their own interests, questions and answers in Europe Lost and Found. I am convinced you will find it both challenging and enjoyable.