Different cultures talking together, understanding each others' ideals and learning to live with mutual differences – the European year of intercultural dialogue aims to bring together the people of Europe in today's complex environment.
'Together in diversity' is the slogan for the promotional campaign that kicks off on 4 December. Various celebrities attended the launch and will publicise the year's events throughout Europe. These goodwill ambassadors include Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, Romanian film director Radu Mihǎileanu and Serbian Eurovision star Marija Šerifović.
A recent Eurobarometer survey confirms that most Europeans will applaud the decision to celebrate intercultural dialogue throughout the continent. Three-quarters of us believe that people with different backgrounds enrich the cultural life of our country.
Culture commissioner Ján Figel' recognises that many of Europe's most significant challenges have their roots in intercultural relations: "The European year 2008 gives us a valuable opportunity to explore ways to improve our intercultural dialogue and our relations".
The launch was an opportunity to present the seven flagship projects selected for funding during the year. These cover urban culture, popular arts, youth participation, migration, media, linking local initiatives, video projects, and activities in immigrant communities. Along these the commission will also support 27 national projects, one in each EU country.
A multicultural group of Brussels school children also attended the event to illustrate their vision of each other through paintings. These will be displayed in the commission's Berlaymont building and used in publicity material throughout the year.
A special website has been set up as a European space for intercultural dialogue. It is hoped this will encourage networking among interested parties, as well as the sharing of best practice. So far 500 individuals and organisations have signed up.
Events will be held throughout 2008 in all 27 EU countries and six keynote debates will be held in Brussels on topics such as arts and heritage, inter-faith dialogue and migration and integration. To guarantee lasting impact, the EU hopes to establish a foundation for policy initiatives in the field of intercultural dialogue.
Commissioner Figel' on intercultural dialogue (2'01")
European cultural values
For diversity, against discrimination (30")