A Conclusions of the Committee
1 The Committee on Culture, Science and Education welcomes
the report prepared by Mr Latchezar Toshev and adopted by the Political
Affairs Committee and shares its general thrust as well as the numerous constructive
proposals it contains.
2 It wishes to stress, from the outset, the excellent co-operation
which has taken place between Mr Toshev and the committee’s rapporteur
for opinion, Mr Flego, who was given the opportunity to make an
influential contribution to the preparation of the draft recommendation
and present his proposals to the Political Affairs Committee, which
has taken them into consideration. Therefore, the committee fully
supports the draft recommendation, which reflects its concerns,
and will not be submitting any amendments.
3 As the committee noted in its recent report on the religious
dimension of intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity, which is
a feature of European societies, has in some cases become a source
of tension and division which disrupt social cohesion. The committee
has promoted a new culture of “living together” based on everyone’s
equal dignity and wholehearted adherence to the principles of democracy
and human rights.
The challenge inherent in “living together” consists in building
a society in which every individual has not only the right, but
also a genuine opportunity, to develop:
- as a person whose dignity and identity, in all their dimensions,
are fully recognised and respected by everyone else;
- as a member of a community where everyone plays an active
role which is acknowledged and valued by everyone.
5 In this sense, “Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century
Europe” – as the subtitle of the report by the Group of Eminent
Persons states – should be understood as a comprehensive, inclusive
process aimed at counteracting all the different kinds of marginalisation.
“Living together” is the exact opposite of “rejection” and “marginalisation”:
it involves welcoming diversity and not merely tolerating it as
if it were an inevitable burden; it requires a broad-minded outlook
and an ability to be open to others without feeling threatened because
one’s own space is being reduced; it entails solidarity and empowerment
of others, in full awareness that this will strengthen the community.
6 The reality is, however, in many cases quite different and,
as the report of the Group of Eminent Persons clearly states, “discrimination
and intolerance are widespread in Europe today”. Roma, migrants
(in the broad sense used in the report, which also includes people
of recent migrant background) and national or cultural (including
religious) minorities are undoubtedly the most obvious victims of
such discrimination and lack of respect.
7 The choice of focusing on them is perfectly understandable,
but it is important to discuss and address the problem bearing in
mind its broadest dimension: policy design should ideally be all-inclusive
even though it may prove necessary, at the policy implementation
stage, to give priority to certain particularly vulnerable groups.
Policies which deal with “marginalisation” and seek to reinforce
“cohesion” within our societies should be multifaceted and consider
different political, legal, socio-economic and cultural aspects.
Accordingly, it is important to emphasise the priority action that
the Council of Europe and national authorities should undertake in
order to trigger positive changes in these different spheres. The
aims to be achieved may be summarised as follows:
- enhanced political framework:
this requires, inter alia,
strengthening political rights and democratic participation;
- a consolidated legal framework and more effective implementation
of human rights standards through administrative practices: this
requires, inter alia, opposing
all forms of discrimination in entitlement to and enjoyment of social,
economic and cultural rights;
- improved socio-economic context: this requires, inter alia, reducing disparities
in the opportunities available to different people and reinforcing
- cultural development: this requires, inter alia, fostering mutual understanding
and dialogue between persons and communities of different cultural
9 These four spheres are, of course, intertwined, and sound
measures implemented in one may well support progress in the others.
The opposite is also true: a lack of action in one sphere may hamper
the effectiveness of measures taken in the others. Therefore, it
is crucial to develop holistic strategies. This applies not only
to member states, but also to the Council of Europe: the Organisation
should not lose the potential for synergies and should co-ordinate
the relevant activities in different sectors so that all these support
each other and are consistently geared towards common aims.
10 For this reason, although there is a tendency to put the emphasis
on the legal dimension (for example, implementation of Council of
Europe standards in the human rights field and in particular non-discrimination), which
is certainly more prominent in the report, equal attention should
be paid to needs in areas targeting social cohesion.
11 With this in mind, the committee wishes to insist on the fundamental
importance of cultural development in generating a sound societal
environment for “living together” and considers that four areas
of intervention are crucial in order to develop a new culture capable
of sustaining the “living together” society: education, youth and
sport, media and intercultural dialogue.
12 Education (regular formative education as well as lifelong
learning, formal as well as informal) is indispensable to individual
and societal well-being and cultural development, without which
democracy, human rights and the rule of law would lose their foundations
and building a “living together” society would be impossible. The
ability to use human and social faculties and the capacity to be
open to and value diversity are highly dependent on high-quality
education. It is therefore necessary to combat the educational and
cultural divide in our societies.
13 Therefore, the committee supports the recommendations in the
report of the Political Affairs Committee to reinforce the Council
of Europe programmes aimed at assisting member states in the framing
of sound educational policies and the proper implementation of the
right to education with no discrimination, and to further develop
the programmes designed to promote education in human rights and
democratic citizenship, including education in multiculturalism.
14 In addition, the committee believes that the production of
a specially adapted edition of the 2008 White Paper on Intercultural
Dialogue for use in primary and secondary schools (as suggested
in specific recommendation No. 34 of the Group of Eminent Persons)
is a simple but extremely useful measure toward a “living together”
15 Enhanced focus on youth and implementation of youth rights
are an investment in Europe’s cohesion and a better future. As the
draft recommendation prepared by the Political Affairs Committee
rightly states, youth policies should be at the core of member states’
strategies to build “living together” societies.
In this respect, the Committee refers to its recent report
“Towards a European framework convention on youth rights”Note
highlights the need to adopt specific measures to encourage young
people’s participation in economic and democratic life. It welcomes
the reference to sport as a powerful tool to further intercultural dialogue
and living together among young people.
17 It is important to insist on the central role of the media
in promoting democracy, respect of fundamental rights and the promotion
of culture. The Council of Europe should strengthen its relationship
with the media world. With this aim in mind, the committee firmly
supports the proposal to organise regular encounters involving the
main European media networks, with a view to further implementing
the Council of Europe’s recommendations on training, ethical and
content production issues.
18 Building up intercultural dialogue is a clear necessity in
our multicultural Europe. The committee strongly supports the proposals
to launch a campaign on “living together”, to establish pilot projects
on intercultural dialogue with schools and higher education institutions
and to create a regular process to assess the development of intercultural
dialogue in Council of Europe member states, including the preparation
of a report and the organisation of a thematic European forum on
intercultural dialogue to be held periodically.
19 The committee also notes with great satisfaction the support
by the Group of Eminent Persons for the establishment of a stable
and recognised platform to improve the Council of Europe’s relations
with high-level representatives of religious and non-denominational
organisations, which echoes the Assembly’s requests in Recommendation
1962 (2011) on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue.
20 The committee wishes to stress the importance of recognising
that no country is able to face the “living together” challenge
alone: despite the many efforts that individual countries may exert,
problems will resurface if they are not effectively dealt with by
all our countries. Moreover, Europe will probably be unable to respond to
the challenge if nothing is done to help developments in neighbouring
countries, especially in the Mediterranean Basin.
21 The report by the Group of Eminent Persons is perfectly right
when it states that: “living together in Europe requires looking
beyond Europe. What happens in parts of the world …, and especially
among Europe’s neighbours, is likely to affect all of us, for better
and worse. We cannot decide our neighbours’ fate, but we must be
ready to help them, and also to learn from them, as much as we can.”
22 In this respect the committee shares the view that the European
Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre)
can and should play an important role: it should be given appropriate resources,
in order to develop a specific, comprehensive “living together”
programme, including educational, intercultural and youth policy
dimensions, to support development in non-member countries in the Mediterranean
23 To conclude, the committee is convinced that the report of
the Political Affairs Committee effectively complements, with very
sound recommendations, the suggestions included in the report of
the Group of Eminent Persons and focuses on priority initiatives
which could become the core elements of a comprehensive action plan
towards “living together”.
24 The committee is aware that the goal is an ambitious one and
probably requires additional resources. However, it strongly believes
that in many areas, including education, youth and sport, media
and intercultural dialogue, the Council of Europe, because of its
chronic lack of resources, is not tapping into all its potential
as a leading agency for delivering policy guidance.
25 It is time to stop thinking of the Council of Europe as an
old-fashioned, somewhat inefficient organisation – which it definitely
is not – and to make use of all its strengths. Hopefully, the report
of the Group of Eminent Persons will encourage the adoption of a
new perspective from which the real value and indispensable role
of the Council of Europe will appear more clearly. Investing in
the Council of Europe is worthwhile and the committee hopes that
the Committee of Ministers will recognise this and act accordingly.