Together in diversity
Throughout history, populations from diﬀerent cultures have met and exchanged ideas, values and goods through art, trade and migration. In an increasingly interdependent world, people from diﬀerent back-grounds and cultures are now mixing more than ever. The European Union is working towards a society respectful of cultural diversity and open to the world.
Globalisation, the enlargement of the European Union and the free movement of workers in the Single Market have increased the multicultural character of many countries, adding to the number of languages, religions and ethnic backgrounds on the continent. Cities such as London, Paris or Berlin have become real melting pots, home to people from all over the globe. Although this mixing of cultures can create vibrant, dynamic societies, it can also bring tensions.
Policies that promote inclusion, integration and participation of all citizens are therefore vital. Eﬀective and constructive communication is necessary for any multicultural society to function. As societies become increasingly diverse, the need for people to understand each other becomes more important if dynamic communities are to develop — communities where people can live together and make the most of their diversity.
Intercultural dialogue promotes the sharing of ideas and explores different ways of looking at the world. It can be the ʻglueʼ that binds diverse societies together. The European Union designated 2008 ʻThe year of intercultural dialogue’, with a series of initiatives to promote:
- Cultural diversity, at a time when globalisation is often seen as a force for homogeneity;
- Active European citizenship based on common values, such as commitment to solidarity, social justice and stronger cohesion;
- Culture and creativity as sources of innovation to improve prosperity; and
- A stronger voice for Europe in the world, through partnerships with neighbouring countries to boost development, stability and democracy.
On the agenda
The promotion of intercultural dialogue is one of the main pillars of the European Agenda for Culture, agreed by EU leaders in November 2007. It recognises that Europe’s cultural diversity is one of its greatest assets and seeks to safeguard and promote it. The promotion of culture and cultural diversity is also laid down in the Treaty establishing the EU.
This is the basis for the EUʼs Culture programme (2007-2013). With a budget of 400 € million the programme supports projects and actions which focus on Europe’s cultural diversity and celebrate our continent’s common cultural heritage. The programme supports the development of cross-border co-operation between actors and institutions from the cultural sector.
But culture must also be taken into account in other EU initiatives and policy areas, among them ﬁelds as diverse as lifelong learning, external relations, research policy, and regional and rural development.