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IP/07/972

Brussels, 29 juin 2007

Group of Intellectuals to advise the European Commission on the contribution of multilingualism to Intercultural Dialogue

A Group of intellectuals and experts on multilingualism set up by the European Commission is to make proposals and recommendations on how languages can foster intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding held its first meeting in Brussels today, chaired by Commissioner Leonard Orban. The Group should advise on a contribution to the forthcoming "European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008" (EYID). The Group is composed of 10 independent personalities with a multicultural and/ or literary background or with academic work in a multilingual and multicultural context: Amin Maalouf, Chair (writer, Lebanon), Jens Christian Grondahl (writer, Denmark), Jutta Limbach (President of the Goethe Institute, Germany) Jan Sokol (philosopher, Czech Republic), David Green (ex-Director of British Council, UK), Jacques de Decker (writer, journalist, secrétaire perpétuel de l'Académie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique, Belgium), Sandra Pralong (Communication-expert, Romania), Jorge Semprun (writer, Spain), Tahar Ben Jelloun (writer and poet, Morrocco) and Eduardo Lourenço (writer, philosopher, Portugal).

"As an integral part of our identity" Commissioner Leonard Orban said, "language is the structuring element of any culture and its most direct expression. To respect and promote linguistic and cultural diversity is one of the European Union's strategic priorities and a basic key to European integration. The promotion of intercultural dialogue is inseparable from multilingualism".

The successive enlargements of the European Union and increased mobility of citizens, along with the globalisation process have contributed to new immigration flows and increased the degree of interchange between languages, cultures and beliefs in Europe. To face the challenges raised by an increasingly multicultural European society, there is a pressing need to develop the intercultural skills of European citizens and promote dialogue between cultures. Language is the most direct expression of each culture. To move from the multicultural to the intercultural, knowledge of other languages is essential.

The Group's mandate for contributing to this process will be to:

  • Discuss how knowledge of other languages can provide access to other cultures and help create an inclusive society in Europe;
  • Identify ways of fostering intercultural dialogue in Europe, taking into account the ethical dimensions of a multicultural society;
  • Propose strategies for communicating the enrichment potential of language learning and the meeting of languages and cultures with a view to the forthcoming Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008.

The Group will meet three times in 2007. The conclusions will be communicated in an emblematic event to take place in 2008.


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