International Conference on Multicultural Issue and Minorities in a European Context


Liberec, Czech Republic/Hotel Babylon

  November 27-28, 2008


The event was organized by the Liberec Roma Association, jointly with the European Journalists Association-The Communication Network asbl, the Metropolitan University of Prague, the Representation of Liberec Region in Brussels, the Helsinki Citizens Assembly-German Section and the Deutsch-Tschechisches Forum der Frauen/Česko-nĕmeckym forum zen.  It took place within the European Year for Multicultural Dialog and focused on several aspects of the theme. After the welcome addresses the plenary session was opened by the EJ President Paolo Magagnotti with a report on the topic “Crossing the Divide and Fostering Dialogue Among Diversities Towards a United Europe”. Below is an essential abstract of his presentation


Identity and Multiculturalism.


People throughout history have always grouped themselves into clan, tribes, nations and many other forms of communities where they have developed their own identity and cultural traditions.

The present multicultural situation in Europe is a consequence of its history, which has been characterized by cultural and religious conflicts, tragedies but also by unique creativity.

During the entire European history we have experienced intolerance towards diversities, which have been conceived as enemies.

Many innocents “lost their life because their only fault was to be different from their murderers”.

Culture and identity are two inseparable life components. Anyway identity is not a dogma and it develops in time and through circumstances.


Recognize “the others” and cross the divide.


We often appreciate and enjoy different cultures and traditions, but when it comes to concrete relationships we think that our own culture is the best and “the others” should follow our life>We like and enjoy Roma music and songs, but don’t like to have something to do with them.

It is not enough to appreciate the culture of “the others”; we need to pay attention to it and engage ourselves in mutual respect and cooperation.

Crossing the divide means to overcome preconceived beliefs and act on the bases of mutual understanding. It mightn’t be easy , but it is necessary to avoid the failure of our “European building”. Not the Fukuyama’s “End of History”, that reads diversities as exclusion either  the Huntingtons’ “Clash of Civilizations”, that sees “The West and the Rest” fit with the “European vision of “Unity in Diversity”. With the logic of “us” and “them” nothing can be built.

Coalition-building across borders by civil  society’s actors has promoted  new paradigms of human and social relationships  influencing formal institutional decision-making processes.

Diversity is necessary for human flourishing, just as biodiversity is essential for the survival of our planet.

Our genetic code indicates that by and large we are made from the same matter.


Recognition of regions and local authorities at European level has made EU more aware of European diversity.


At the beginning of the European Integration process the only voices were those of the central governments. The tone of essay-writing of the eighties was a refusal of Brussels.

The “regional movement” of the 1970’s and 1980’s, the establishment of the “Committee of Regions” and the introduction of the principle of subsidarity with the Maastricht Treaty significantly enhanced the perception of multicultural diversity in Europe.

The Regions must make more effort to strengthen one's role within the CoR and not

 just to favor their representations in Brussels.


Diversities means ethnic and linguistic minorities too.


 If we really want to consider linguistic and ethnic minorities as a European cultural richness we need to be coherent. In many cases we aren’t.

The Copenhagen criteria are good but the implementation must be sound.

Minorities must feel safeguarded, both on legislative and administrative level and have the feeling that the general social environment around them pays attention to their special condition. Otherwise there is always a potential source of tension.

If we want to build a fabric of cohesiveness and mutual understanding among diversities we need to put on it bricks soaked with security.   

The Golden Rule in negative: “Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you”, should be put in positive: “Do unto others what you would like others to do unto you”.

Minorities are sometimes concentrated in a specific territory an sometimes scattered all over a country or, in our context, all over Europe: typical case is the Roma.

EU must act in agreement with national authorities.


Mistrust poisons human and institutional relationships and nourishes negative attitude against diversity.


Mistrust and suspicions among diversities “poison” every kind of relationships and prevent the mutual understanding for building a peaceful European future.

Trust and confidence enable dialogue to occur. Mistrust inhibits any cross-cultural collaborative effort and growth of cultural of peace.

 “Crossing the divide”, whatever it is, it is the first necessary step to learn how to appreciate diversity and to promote trust and confidence.

Genuine dialogue requires careful nurturing, tolerance and conviction that it is possible and useful.

Ignorance and arrogance are the major roots of stereotyping, prejudice and violence.


Dialogue must be a mutual learning and information can help this process.


In approaching dialogue we need to put aside our desire to sell our ideas at any cost; we need to pay attention to other conviction, to other approaches.

The old rule ”Information is precondition of participation” is more topical than ever.

Journalists must be humbler and not think that they are the only holders of truth. Information and communication also mean to learn the “art of listening”.

We need bridge-builders committed to dialogue, recognizing that in our diversities we have common values.

It is also the communicators’ ability to present differences not as a threat but as an opportunity. Local and regional media are of utmost importance to promote participation in the European integration process and fostering dialog among diversities. We need to give more elements of motivation for a better and useful European communication, realizing that about more than 70 % of our daily life is related to European rules.

Special motivations and hope must be given to the young generations; we need to make them dream. Sad is a nation whose young people have no dreams.

The Communist system has deprived millions of citizens of Central and Eastern  Europe of their freedom, but didn’t succeed in destroying important values that they keep in their heart and brain. Western Europeans haven’t to be  self-important and think that to Eastern citizens must be taught almost everything .  They must be humbler and be aware that they can learn a lot from Eastern Europeans.

To reach any goal we need to be willing to do it, and to have willpower; otherwise we are just losing time and energy, and Europe will  left to its fate.