JEF Seminar on Intercultural Dialogue in Barcelona (part 1)


JEF Seminar

Barcelona, Spain

23-29 November 2009


The JEF seminar which took place in Barcelona on the last week of November couldn’t be more appropriate, given the actual debate in Italy on the crucifix and, in general, the European debate concerning the symbols, which should represent the culture of a nation, and the ”threat”, for the European cultures, to be overwhelmed by the new cultures of the immigrants. During seven days 30 youngsters tried to untie the skein of the integration of different cultures in Europe, probably the most difficult task for the achievement of the European ”social” integration process.


· Migrations: problem or opportunity?


In a group of people from all over Europe, who meet to collect ideas in order to enrich the debate on the intercultural dialogue, it is very easy to answer this question: migrations are an opportunity! In fact we noticed that people are often interested in approaching ”new” cultures, mostly because of curiosity and/or because they are in contact with someone, who belongs to this category of ”different” people. The problem, though, occurs as this singular ”different” person (which could be an immigrant, a homosexual, etc…, but in this case we’re interested in immigrants) becomes a huge number of people, or better, a community. This is the case of the massive immigration of people coming to Europe searching for a new and better life.


It is at this stage that people become frightened by the difference between the two or more communities, which are growing in a city, in a region, in a country, and their own, because the new guests are no more that one exception, that could be interesting to deal with, rather there are lots of exceptions and this situation threatens the social stability of their ”neighbourhood”. Thus we can state that tolerating, or even accepting, one person who’s different from you just because you know him/her is not the same as accepting to cooperate in your daily life with several people who have different habits, different religions and speak different languages.


Moreover, in order to be realistic, it is necessary to notice that the meeting of different communities of people always creates some social difficulties, above all the understanding task. In fact both the language and the culture are big obstacles to the communication: even overcoming the language hurdle, you must face the cultural problem, which could often prevent you from understanding the real meaning of an event or of a behaviour, creating a misunderstanding which could be very serious sometimes.


Therefore migrations impose a radical change on the whole society: this implies that the transformation process cannot be immediate, because it is the result of focused integration policies at different levels: the local one, the national one and the European one. Some tools to act on the local level could be the organisation of cultural events, of free language courses, of economical activities, in order to promote everyone’s culture, and of seminars or debates on the territory. Concerning the national level the education system should be revised in order to have a non-segregation and inclusive system and the civil rights should be guaranteed to all, for instance the right to have a job, which could be guaranteed by  some kind of ”anonymous” CV, for example, so that you cannot be discriminated on the basis of the nationality. Finally, concerning the European level, an intercultural exchange programme, in particular for the teenagers, should be promoted and enhanced.

We all agreed on the fact that education is a fundamental pillar of the building of a multicultural European society and the most important tool to make migrations be an opportunity to enrich everyone’s culture, rather than a way to fight against the unknown.


· Intercultural dialogue: theory or practice?


At this point of the reflection it is important to underline that the intercultural dialogue is a generally shared issue, but when it gets to really act on the problem of accepting the immigrants none of the EU member states, apart from the states directly involved (Mediterranean countries), feels concerned by the problem. It is a fact that the European Union has never promoted a unique, coherent and valid European immigration policy. In this sense the Treaty of Lisbon should now encourage the member states to finally give birth to this immigration policy, but the reality is that Europe lacks the goodwill of doing it. In a EU with 27 member states and a constantly growing flow of people moving from one country to the other, considering also the huge number of immigrants from outside the EU and the fact that EU citizens from Eastern Europe are still perceived as extra-community immigrants, it is of fundamental importance to have a common approach to the issue of immigration, in order to help the European society metabolizing the radical changes which necessarily occur in the case of massive immigration from outside EU and of continual internal migrations.


Europe must act.


> the article continues in the next post

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