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Brussels, 4 December 2007

Three in four EU citizens welcome dialogue with other cultures

Almost three quarters of EU citizens (72%) believe that people with a different background (ethnic, religious or national) enrich the cultural life of their country; a quarter (23%) of citizens disagree with that idea, according to a Flash Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the European Commission. Respondents were asked about the patterns of their interaction with people of different cultures, about their general attitude towards cultural diversity and, specifically, about the upcoming European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008.

The survey’s fieldwork was carried out between 13 and 17 of November 2007. Over 27,000 randomly selected citizens aged 15 years and above were interviewed in the twenty-seven Member States of the European Union. The most important outcomes of the survey can be grouped into the following conclusions:

1. Day-to-day interaction among people belonging to different cultures is a reality in Europe.

Two-thirds (65%) of respondents in the 27 EU Member States were able to recall interaction with at least one person of a different religion, ethnic background or nationality than their own in the seven days prior to being questioned. The highest ratios of citizens having contacts were reported from Luxembourg (82%), Ireland (77%), UK (76%) and Austria (75%). The countries with lowest level of interaction were Estonia (43%) and Romania (44%).

2. A large majority of EU citizens believe that people with a different background (ethnic, religious or national) enrich the cultural life of their country.

The answer to this question is a reflection of the importance of the ethnic/religious/cultural minorities living in a given society. Member States where people tend to have most frequent contacts (Luxembourg, Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK) are among those where citizens often consider such contacts as a boost to their country’s cultural life. The highest levels of disagreement with this opinion were found in Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. But even in those countries, more than half of the respondents think that people with different cultural backgrounds enrich their everyday life. Overall, young people, people with the highest levels of education and those living in cities are more likely to think that cultural diversity is an asset to a country’s cultural life.

3. The dominant feeling in the EU is that intercultural dialogue is beneficial, while carrying on domestic cultural traditions is equally important:

A remarkably high number of EU citizens (83%) value the benefits of intercultural contacts, and two-thirds think that family (cultural) traditions should be followed by the younger generation. Combining these two results reveals that 55% of respondents expressed an attachment to cultural diversity with a strong wish to keep the cultural roots alive as well, while 25% (especially the youngest Europeans) consider that cultural openness does not go hand-in-hand with the need to consciously maintain one’s own traditions. The rest either do not appreciate the benefits of intercultural contacts, or have no clear opinion on this issue.

4. Europeans attribute a variety of meanings to the expression “Intercultural dialogue in Europe”; most of these are closely related to the core concept, and are positive.

Among the meanings frequently expressed by respondents, one finds: “conversation”, “cooperation”, “exchange” and “mutual understanding” across all nations, religions and cultures. The survey concludes that:

  • The cosmopolitan mindset (where cultural openness does not go hand-in-hand with the need to consciously maintaining one’s own traditions) is more typical of the EU-15, and especially in: Denmark 56%; Sweden 48%; and the Netherlands 46%.
  • Citizens of the new Member States tend to be very much pro-diversity in their attitudes, but also inclined to preserving their own culture as well; this is for instance characteristic of the Polish (75%), Czech and Cypriot (both 74%) respondents.

5. Reasonable interest for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue

A series of events taking place during the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 will be an occasion to meet people with different cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds and learn more about each other. According to the survey, almost two-thirds of the EU-27 citizens have some interest in these events.
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