ACCEPT European Conference, Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, 6-7 March 2013
6 March, Euroflat Hotel, Bouevard Charlemagne 50
7 March, European Parliament
The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) organized the third and final ACCEPT European Conference in Brussels, Belgium, entitled “Are European societies becoming more or less tolerant towards cultural diversity?” on 6-7 March 2013.
This conference was organized within the framework of the project Tolerance, Pluralism and Social Cohesion: Responding to the Challenges of the 21st Century in Europe - ACCEPT PLURALISM - funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, DG Research, Social Sciences and Humanities. - funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, DG Research, Social Sciences and Humanities.
During this two day conference, the findings of the ACCEPT Pluralism research project were discussed with policy and decision makers at EU level. The conference participants also reflected on ways of combating intolerance, promoting practices of tolerance and/ or acceptance of cultural diversity particularly in school life and in political life across different European countries.
Wednesday 6th March 2013/ Euroflat Hotel - European Parliament
Doris Peschke, General Secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe welcomed all participants and presented the scope and aims of the two-day conference. Louisa Anastopoulou, Project officer of DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission also welcomed the conference participants on behalf of the Commission and underlined the policy and political importance of the issues explored by the ACCEPT PLURALISM project in the present socio-political context.She emphasised the need for problem-oriented projects and for policy relevant findings. Professor Anna Triandafyllidou, Scientific Coordinator of ACCEPT PLURALISM presented the project’s research scope and then Terry Martin from SPIA (Berlin) and member of ACCEPT PLURALISM’s Advisory Board took the lead as chair of the morning sessions on “Tolerance and Pluralism in European Societies.”
Professor Tariq Modood, University of Bristol, spoke on “Tolerance and Pluralism in Europe: New Analytical Findings and Possible Policy Consequences” and Professor Anna Triandafyllidou from the European University Institute introduced the ACCEPT PLURALISM project’s Indicators and discussed “Indicators of Tolerance in European Societies”. Thomas Huddleston from MPG, Brussels discussed the challenges associated with Indicators and the difficulties of measurement. He noted the need for a stake-holder approach in defining and applying indicators. Interventions from the audience underlined the need to approach discourse analysis of political speech with caution and to always underline the context-specific nature of empirical findings. Most importantly, what was repeatedly underlined by the ACCEPT PLURALISM researchers is that there is no one size fits all on matters of tolerance, integration, accommodation and respect.
Flora Burchianti from UPF, Barcelona then discussed the ACCEPT findings on Intolerant Discourses in Politics in her presentation “New Intolerance Discourse in Political Life”. Professor Maurizio Ambrosini from the University of Milan explored “National and Local policies of exclusion” across different European societies - for the ACCEPT findings on the issue click here . He underscored that national policies on immigration have tended to harden in recent years and have reaffirmed the importance of national boundaries. However, the link between more ‘muscular’ policies of integration with local policies and practices has been understudied. Ana Feder from Integrating Cities, in turn described the role and structure of Eurocities, which includes over 140 cities- members and functions as a platform for sharing knowledge and exchanging idea. She emphasised the role of the city as a policy maker, an employer, and a core and influential agent in the integration process.
The afternoon sessions of the Conference continued at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Mr Andrew Duff, British MEP with ALDE identified some of the core challenges facing issues of tolerance, rights and respect in school life and political life. Professor Anna Triandafyllidou, Scientific Coordinator of ACCEPT PLURALISM presented the project’s “Ten Key Findings” and in the Roundtable that followed and that was moderated by Professor Bo Strath, University of Helsinki, two partners of the project: Professor Tariq Modood, University of Bristol and Marko Hajdinjak, International Centre for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations, Sofia, offered insights into the concepts of tolerance and diversity in European societies.
Ms Nadja Hirsch, German MEP with ALDE, spoke on the effects of migrants on the labour market and discussed the concept of integration as it is seen by the EP. She underlined the importance of employment for successful integration and for people to be able to lead a self-determined life. Thus she emphasized the priority of ensuring that labour markets are a field of non-discrimination. Ms Jean Lambert, British MEP with the Greens expressed her concern with the rise of the far-right and its growing influence on mainstream politics. She referred to the work of the European Parliament on fighting discrimination and racism including a resolution on hate speech. She equally noted that the EP’s employment and social affairs committee will be looking at the implementation of the diversity directive (as regards discrimination in the field of employment).
The concluding discussion focused particularly on the changes taking place within Islam globally and on the claims of Muslim communities in different European countries as well as the need to differentiate between different traditions of Islam and to not ignore that Islam has been present in parts of Europe for over six centuries – particularly in the Southeast of the continent.
The last session of the day focused on “Tolerance and Policies of Exclusion” and concentrated in particular on the challenges faced by the Roma populations. Ms Jana Balazova from the European Commission’s DG Justice presented on the work of the Commission on Roma issues in all areas of public life underlined the importance of the role of the EU Commission in addressing the exclusion and discrimination challenges faced by Europe’s largest ethnic minority. She presented the work of the Commission on Roma inclusion through policy and financial instruments (EU structural funds and national integration strategies, anti-discrimination directives etc.) while noting that the competences and primary responsibilities lie with the member states. In this context, Ms Balazova mentioned the Commission’s initiative to encourage all EU Member States to revise their Roma Integration Strategies to address discrimination and noted that indeed, all EU Member States had submitted national strategies on the subject recognizing the importance of education, housing and healthcare in particular.
Mr. Frank Pierobon, from DG Education and Culture of the European Commission concentrated on education as one of the core pillars of Roma integration. He particularly emphasized the role of education as half the Roma population are below 25 years of age. Mr Pierobon underlined the fact that Roma are European citizens and that so far, all efforts to address various forms of discrimination had had no impact on the Roma communities. In this context, he argued for the need to render more visible the Roma populations contribution to European culture and in this he underlined the particular importance attached to culture that is accorded by DG EAC.
Dr. Zsuzsana Vidra, from the Center for Policy Studies of the Central European University, discussed, then, ACCEPT Pluralism indicators on Roma segregation in her presentation 'The challenges facing Roma integration in Europe and particularly in Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Poland and Romania'. She presented the policies in place and discussed the gap between the institutional framework and the realities on the ground as well as the causes of segregation.). She presented the policies in place and discussed the gap between the institutional framework and the realities on the ground as well as the causes of segregation.
Professor Ayhan Kaya from Istanbul’s Bilgi University, further explored ACCEPT PLURALISM findings on Political Tolerance for native minorities in his presentation entitled ‘Τhe realities on the ground and practices of political intolerance towards other native minorities in European countries’. He examined the different ways in which six European states have addressed the claims of their historical minorities and identified practices of intolerance, tolerance and recognition in each context.
Marta Pinto of the European Roma Information Office in Brussels closed the Roundtable discussion by reminding that the Roma challenge is a challenge for a diverse multicultural continent. She repeated that any approach dealing with Roma needs to be integrated and must cover all aspects of life as segregation and discrimination is widespread across all areas. She clarified that for the Roma Information Office, the Member States reports on their strategies to integrate their Roma populations constitute the very first step, as the core challenge ahead is to implement these strategies. Ms Pinto underlined the need to include the Roma populations in the way relevant policies are formulated and implemented and that political will is core for any results to be achieved. Recognising that working for Roma integration is neither politically attractive nor popular across Europe, Ms Pinto stressed the need for policy makers and political actors to make a clear commitment to work towards non-discrimination and pluralism in their societies. As such, addressing racism against Roma essentially involves addressing institutional racism.
Thursday 7th March 2013/ Euroflat Hotel
Professor Ruth Wodak of Lancaster University and Member of ACCEPT PLURALISM’s Advisory Board chaired the morning session entitled “Teaching Tolerance Towards Cultural and Religious Diversity in Schools in Europe.”
Dr. Tore Olsen, Aarhus University presented the findings of ACCEPT PLURALISM on the accommodation of religious diversity in schools in his presentation “Let’s talk About it: Accommodating Religious Diversity in Europe’s Schools.” ACCEPT findings on tolerance in school life was also examined from the perspective of the curricula in a presentation by Dr. Jan Dobbernack from the University of Bristol in his presentation entitled “Are National Curricula Teaching Tolerance of Cultural Diversity?”. Dr. Marcel Maussen, University of Amsterdam, concluded the presentation of the ACCEPT PLURALISM findings on school life with his presentation on “Religious schools and tolerance.”
Robin Sclafani from CEJI, A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, discussed the three presentations commenting that a general diversity approach is not enough to deal with religious approach to education. She underlined that CEJI has preferred to promote a diversity approach rather than an inter-faith one, because this is a more inclusive one, especialy in a secular context. She noted that the core challenges involve reconciling religion, gender and sexual orientation, as well as combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The conference’s concluding session was chaired by Rajeev Bhargava from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi. John Wrench from the University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, returned to the issue of the national and local level of policies and practices and introduced a new angle to the debate by emphasising the importance of the organisation level. He pointed out that over the last ten years, much evidence has been brought forward on diversity management and combating discrimination in Europe. The underlying premise has been that diversity is good for innovation and productivity. Professor Maurizio Ambrosini then reconsidered the findings of ACCEPT PLURALISM against the background of the vivid discussion over the two-day conference and presented a set of future lines of research in the field of tolerance and accommodation of difference.
In the roundtable discussion that followed Doris Peschke from CCME referred to the policy and practical dimensions of research, particularly of EU funded research that aims at policy relevant findings and dissemination. She emphasised the importance of reliable research that civil society and NGOs can tap into. She noted of course that sometimes research findings can be disappointing because they don’t agree always or coincide with what NGOs are advocating for. Nonetheless, the importance of sound research was reiterated, particularly in areas where there are gaps between policies and practices, along with the need for tools that enable the assessment of the positive and negative impacts of policies. Giulia Amaducci from DG Home of the European Commission brought her practical experience from both DG Research and DG Home into the discussion and highlighted the value for policy makers and EU officials of having direct and personal access to expert networks in order to be able to tap in, quickly and effectively, to specific information when needed. She stressed that more than lists of policy recommendations, what many policy-making actors (whether at the national or EU levels) need is reliable, easily accessible information, data and clear analyses and syntheses. In the debate that followed it was stressed that while sound research is needed for policy stakeholders to be able to tap into in order to be able to formulate informed policies, at the same time, there is a pressing need to reflect on how research can stay independent while also responding to policy needs. Furthermore, it was argued that in spite of rich policy-relevant research, in most cases policies are formulated more on the basis of ideological principles and the balancing of specific socio-economic and political interests.
The Conference was concluded with final remarks on behalf of Anna Triandafyllidou, Doris Peschke and Louisa Anastopoulou. Thanks were extended to DG Research and Innovation for its financial support to the ACCEPT PLURALISM research, to the consortium partners for their teamwork and contributions to the multidisciplinary nature of the project, to CCME for the organisation of the project’s Final Conference, and to the projects’ Scientific coordinator, Anna Triandafyllidou.
For a full and detailed report of the event please click here