The ECP research team met in Malta on 7 and 8 July 2007 to discuss the
following two themes: intercultural dialogue and the communication of the
European idea to European citizens. The participants were Ambassador Karl-Erik
Norrman, Simonetta Carbonaro, Venu Dhupa, Bert Mulder, Jasenko Selimovic and Joe
Friggieri. Laura Gardner, Dr Dhupa’s assistant, also took part. The seminar was
addressed by Jean-Léonard Touadi, Deputy Mayor for Youth Policy, Security and
Universities in Rome.
Here follows the result of the research team summarized by Joe Friggieri
need for intercultural dialogue
The Commission of the European
Communities’ proposal (COM (2005) 467) lays great emphasis on the need to
involve “all European citizens and all those living in the Union, and
particularly young people” in the process of intercultural dialogue. It was in
the light of these considerations that the ECP research term met in Malta in
order to examine the nature, structure and aims of intercultural dialogue, the
means to achieve it, the problems it faces and the ways in which such problems
can be resolved. Intercultural dialogue is an attempt to overcome stereotype,
however a stereotypy is never all false, more like a cartoon. The stereotype
becomes dangerous when it becomes prejudice.
The Nature of
Dialogue is based on the fundamental requirement of seeing
the other not as a threat but as an opportunity for growth, a resource of
knowledge. But knowledge is a terrible thing, because it forces us to abandon
the security provided by conventional wisdom in order to try to understand a
reality which has so far been hidden from us.
Knowledge shifts us as persons. It challenges our generated
wisdom. People are afraid of taking risks and don’t like surprises. Children are
more open, but we as adults often indoctrinate rather than educate. Not
everybody thinks that interculturality is a good thing. Some are convinced that
the clash of civilisations is unavoidable. And when you believe that something
is unavoidable, then, by definition, you also believe that you can do nothing to
prevent it from happening.
Images of “the other”
have to go beyond fear and anxiety. We should stop thinking of the other as the
enemy; stop thinking of ourselves as the superior. We must be willing to learn
from others, to interact with them as equals, to redress the imbalances and
injustices of the past by working together for a better future, in the
conviction that unless we survive together, we shall perish
Culture and identity
Culture is made, is
continually constructed, neither identities are static but is constantly being
built. The same goes for societies. A wonderful example is the Romanian.
Societies that don’t adapt will wither away. The difficulties lie in preserving
the past and face the challenges of the present and the
The intercultural perspective
In a democracy
people are linked together as individuals, not through blood, religion or
politics but rather sharing the same rights within a system of rules and values
freely accepted by them and always open to change. 200 persons travelling on the
same bus do not constitute a community. A community must be genuinely interested
in the wellbeing of the others. In a genuine intercultural community, there
would be no ghettos and nobody would be living on the
Some proposals on what needs to be done
- Create a common cultural space where new identities can be negotiated.
- Find cultural catalysts and cultural mediators to spread information of
diversity as an asset.
- Tackle the issue of big cities – avoid ghettos, schools open to everybody
with intercultural curricula.
- Enable ourselves to write intercultural nonhegemonic histories.
- Provide job opportunities after school to avoid social unrest.
- Create a common space for free discussion and the free circulation of ideas.
- Make mainstream media more interculturally inclusive.
Communicating the European idea
Before we talk deep
European idea, we need to establish which idea of Europe we whish to present.
One of the aims of the EU was to prevent catastrophes of national imperialistic
ambitions. We project EU as a promoter of peace and must not seek to create new
enemies to replace the old one.
Culture as catalyst of
A vibrant culture speaks with many voices and theoretically
all languages are mutually translatable. Speaking a language means understanding
a way of life. When people speak of clash of cultures, they tend to lose sight
of the fact that, as human beings, we have the same set of basic needs, desires
and aspirations. We should aim at a fusion of horizon. Cultural interactions
replace competition and strife with friendship and collaboration, foster
understanding, conviviality and harmony rather than fomenting antagonism, enmity
The group ended in posing a few questions
- Can all of us living in Europe make a significant contribution towards
promoting this different model of human relations?
- Can we make use of our cultural resources to achieve the desired aim of
harmony, conviviality and peace?
- Can we tap these resources to create a common space where nobody feels
excluded, useless or unwanted, but will contribute, in his or her own way, to
the common good and the well-being of the whole community?
The members of the ECP research team meeting in Malta feel that these
questions can be answered positively. It is now up to this conference to discuss
ways and means of achieving those aims.