"Tolerance isn't enough"
Tolerance of different cultures is no longer enough: Europeans should create an "inter-cultural society" says European culture commissioner.
Tolerance of different cultures is no longer enough: Europeans should create an "inter-cultural society" in which interaction across cultural boundaries is the norm, the European Union's top cultural official said Friday.
"We want to go beyond multi-cultural societies, where cultures and cultural groups simply coexist side by side: mere tolerance is not enough any more," the EU's Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Jan Figel, said ahead of the official launch of the European Year of Inter-cultural Dialogue 2008.
"We need to give an impulse for a true metamorphosis in our societies, so that we can create an inter-cultural Europe where cultures exchange and interact constructively," he said.
Last week the Year of Inter-cultural Dialogue was launched at a ceremony in Slovenia, the country which currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.
European officials have already announced events across the 27- member bloc aimed at getting different national, linguistic, religious and other groups to listen to one another.
Seven cross-border projects were set to include artistic shows and discussions on hip-hop culture, video workshops for young people, radio broadcasts on migration in European history, and meetings between storytellers, artists, musicians and primary school children.
They were backed by national programmes ranging from a school essay competition in Latvia to a week-long festival examining the relationship between education and cultural dialogue in Germany.
These projects were promoted by 15 leading figures of European culture ranging from Serbian pop star and Eurovision Song Contest winner Marija Serifovic to Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, and from German-educated Turkish pianist Fazil Say to Polish journalist and Solidarity activist Adam Michnik.
Their combined activities "will emphasize the interaction of cultures, deepening of relations between nationalities and religions, and promoting through dialogue a strengthening of understanding, tolerance, solidarity and a sense of common destiny among EU citizens from all walks of life," an EU press release proclaimed.
According to a survey published in December 2007, two-thirds of Europeans interact with at least one person from a different culture each day, and over 70 per cent think these contacts are positive.
But conflict between ethnic or religious groups still continues to bedevil many states, with suburban riots in France, political deadlock in Belgium, unrest in the Balkans and the fear of Islamist terrorism in many states all making the headlines in 2007.
Indeed Belgium, uniquely in the EU, has not even launched a national programme for inter-cultural dialogue this year: its three main language groups have each launched their own programmes without apparent reference to one another.
And with religious discord and ethnic tension hot topics on the political agenda, EU officials are likely to have their work cut out for them if they wish to forge a new society in Europe this year.
4 January 2008