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19th Jan 2020

EU launches campaign for intercultural dialogue

To foster better understanding and communication between the diverse crowd that makes up European citizens, Brussels has launched a media campaign about its forthcoming "Year of intercultural Dialogue."

The initiative has a budget of €10 million, plus money from EU capitals, and will be celebrated throughout the whole of 2008.

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  • Almost three quarters of EU citizens believe that people with a different background enrich the cultural life of their country (Photo: European Commission)

It includes seven flagship multi-European projects and 27 national projects involving culture, education, youth, sport and citizenship.

It will seek to "explore the benefits of cultural diversity" and "foster a sense of European belonging", according to the programme.

EU enlargement, together with greater mobility within the union, new and old migratory flows and increased trade with the rest of the world have led to more contact between cultures, religions and beliefs, ethnic groups and languages in Europe, says the commission

Flanking the EU's culture commissioner, Jan Figel, at the official launch on Tuesday were seven elected "goodwill ambassadors" for the year.

They included well-known personalities in the field of culture, such as Brazilian best seller writer Paulo Coelho, Slovak music director Jack Martin Händler and Serbian eurovision Song Contest winner Marija Serifovic.

According to Mr Coelho, the author of the best-selling novel The Alchemist, "in these difficult moments in which the world is in danger, culture is the base to establish a dialogue".

He pointed out that the lowest common denominator of all communities in the world, no matter how isolated, are cultural: music, beauty, or a notion of God.

Six Brussels debates on culture will be organised during 2008, with each debate taking a specific sectoral view on intercultural dialogue, such as media, arts and heritage, the workplace, inter-religious dialogue, education and youth, migration and integration are on the agenda for the year.

On the launch day, the European commission also presented a recent survey showing that three in four EU citizens welcome dialogue with other cultures.

According to the survey, almost three quarters of EU citizens believe that people with a different background, be it ethnic, religious or national, enrich the cultural life of their country.

Euphemism for religious leaders meetings

But the intercultural dialogue events have also raised criticism before it has even started.

"It may all sound very cosy and cuddly, understanding and dialogue... but some are going to take this year as an excuse to target immigrants and immigrant cultures in Europe", Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld told EUobserver, referring to a text from the commission which states that intercultural dialogue also targets non-EU citizens residing in Europe over time.

Ms In 't Veld said "Intercultural Dialogue" had become a euphemism for dialogue between religious leaders, who claim the exclusive right to define moral values of our society.

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