Future of Europe: A case for plurilingualism & cultural cooperation in cross-border regions
The speakers at this event were Patrice Harster (Director of the EGTC Eurodistrict PAMINA), Kristina Cunningham (DG EAC, European Commission), Victoria Hansen (Project manager in EGTC Eurodistrict PAMINA), Regina Gellrich (Saxon State Office for Early Neighbourhood Education) and Vassilis Xenos Gavrielis (EGTC Amphictyony).
Moderator Patrice Harster presented the main themes of the event, which notably covered plurilingualism in border regions and cooperation on cultural heritage, both cross-border and transnationally. He stressed the link between these two topics as he noted, “Speaking the neighbour’s language opens the door to the culture of the neighbouring country.”
Following the introduction, Kristina Cunningham stressed in her presentation the importance of promoting cultural diversity and plurilingualism. This she justified by saying, "without language skills, the European Education Area is only theoretical. That is why language learning is high on the Commission's agenda".
Subsequently, two speakers presented good practice projects promoting plurilingualism in border regions, which are transferrable to other European regions. Victoria Hansen presented a project called "Weltenbummler – Passe-Partout", which aims to encourage young people of early school age to experience the culture and language of their neighbouring country. This project takes the form of an internet platform in which the Upper Rhine valley can be explored interactively, allowing school classes to carry out small cross-border projects. In the future, the EGTC Eurodistrict PAMINA hopes for an application of this project in other European border regions. To this end, as Ms Hansen explained, the EGTC Eurodistrict PAMINA and the project partners have agreed to allow other organisations to use the website's source code.
A further approach on how to introduce pre-school children to a foreign culture and language was presented by Regina Gellrich in her presentation. With the project, she would like to bring the special living environment of the neighbouring countries (PL and CZ) closer to children in the nursery setting. The project, which features three comic characters called "Biedronka, Maus und Žába", includes various game materials and an online platform with handcraft guides and interactive games, as well as suggestions for teachers. Besides this, trainers visit Polish and Czech kindergartens to bring the regional history and customs of the region closer to the children. Gellrich noted that the whole project is not only valuable for the children but also drives the "creation of a Euro regional identity".
The event then focused on cross-border and transnational cultural heritage cooperation, as cultural heritage is considered the most unifying link in the European integration project. Xenos Gavrielis referred to the need of increasing European funds in the field of culture.
After his introduction, he presented examples of a "forgotten underwater cultural heritage" submerged off the coast of Greece, Cyprus and more generally in the seas surrounding the continent. The aim is for the EGTCs to cooperate on cultural heritage with full respect for the environment, taking the form of coastal observatories along Council of Europe's cultural routes. The benefits, then, will be numerous for all local communities in the fields of tourism, education and business activities.
Take away message
To build a stronger and more united continent, Europe's regions and cities must improve their knowledge of each other's languages on the one hand, and protect common cultural heritage on the other.
The speakers presented best practice projects promoting plurilingualism in border regions, and which are transferrable to other European regions. Another topic that was discussed was the cross-border and transnational cooperation on cultural heritage, which represents an important step towards unification of our continent.