Today, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans hosted a high-level meeting with ten representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations from across Europe. This seventh annual high-level meeting discussed the topic "Migration, integration and European values: putting values into action". The meeting took place within the framework of the ongoing dialogue with churches, religions, philosophical and non-confessional organisations based on Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty.
First Vice-President Timmermans said: "At a time when European societies are marked by a sense of crisis, it is essential to put our values into action. Nowhere is this discussion more relevant than with regards to migration and integration. Values cannot be imposed, they must be passed on and embraced across generations and communities, and we need to find concrete ways to achieve this. Because of their engagement in their respective communities, non-confessional organisations are among those who can provide concrete ideas to move this discussion forward."
The high-level meeting provided a platform to discuss three main issues: how to improve integration policies; how to address the rise of populism and intolerance; and, how to build more cohesive societies. Today's discussion focused in particular on addressing fears and increased polarisation in our societies, and the need to move beyond the crisis mode when it comes to migration and think long-term. The need for proactively transmitting values and cultural understanding was underlined, as well as the central role of education. It was agreed that this is a challenge for society at large and that concrete ways to convey values in practice must be developed. The organisations present will continue to work with the Commission to develop these ideas.
Today’s high level meeting with representatives of philosophical and non-confessional organisation is the seventh in the series of meetings launched by the Commission in 2009 when the dialogue with churches, religions, philosophical and non-confessional organisations was enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty (Art 17 TFEU). The dialogue is under the responsibility of First Vice-President Timmermans.
The Commission will hold its annual meeting with religious leaders on 29 November 2016.
On 7 June 2016, the Commission adopted an Integration Action Plan for Third-Country Nationals outlining a set of actions ranging from education to non-discrimination and social inclusion. The Commission puts a particular emphasis on promoting inclusive education and common EU values as well as reaching out to young people.
The Commission has taken a number of steps to implement the Paris Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education, adopted on 17 March 2015. The Commission will propose a Council Recommendation establishing a policy framework on promoting inclusion and fundamental values through education. In 2016, the Erasmus+ programme is making more than €400 million available to transnational partnerships to develop innovative policy approaches andpractices at grassroots level. Under the Europe for Citizens Programme 2014-2020, the Commission co-finances projects raising awareness of EU values, notably tolerance, mutual respect, and promoting civil society engagement. The Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020 supports projects focusing on preventing and combating racist and xenophobic hatred and intolerance, as well as projects promoting the development of tools and practices to prevent, monitor and combat online hate speech, including through the development of positive counter-narratives.
List of Meeting Participants
- Mr Yvan BIEFNOT, President of the European Association for Free Thought
- Mr Andrzej DOMINICZAK, President, Polish Humanist Association
- Mr Pierre GALAND, President of the European Humanist Federation
- Ms Nieves Bayo GALLEGO, Grand Master of the Gran Logia Simbólica Española
- Mr Marc MENSCHAERT, President, Alliance Maçonnique Européenne, Grand Master, Grand Orient de Belgique
- Ms Nada PERATOVIC, President, Center for Civil Courage (Croatia)
- Ms Yvette RAMON, Grand Master of International Order of Co-freemasonry, "Le Droit Humain"
- Ms Régina TOUTIN, Vice-President, Institut Maçonnique Européen, Women's Grand Lodge of France
- Mr Oscar de WANDEL, Grand Master Grand Lodge of Belgium
- Mr Frieder Otto WOLF, President, Humanistischen Verbandes Deutschlands (HVD)