Hosted by M. Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission in cooperation with EU Commissioner for Justice Ms. Věra Jourová, the first Annual Colloquium on fundamental rights in the EU took place in Brussels on 1st and 2nd of October 2015. The central theme of this first edition was: “Tolerance and respect: preventing and combating antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe”.
Focus on fundamental rights
EAEA welcomes the focus on fundamental rights in the EU highlighted by the Colloquium and its participants. Bringing together people from across Europe with different backgrounds is a very good start to discuss the topic and concentrate together on European values. According to the Eurobarometer 2015, discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin is regarded as the most widespread form of discrimination in the EU (64%). EAEA strongly supports the idea of mainstreaming fundamental rights into all areas of youth and lifelong learning policies.
Education mentioned as a central element of the answer
“It emerged clearly from these two days that education at home, at school, or our cultural centre plays a crucial role in preventing discrimination and hatred,” underlined Ms. Věra Jourová in her concluding remarks.
EAEA also welcomes the fact that a continuous focus was put on education and adult education throughout the colloquium. Civic education, intercultural dialogue, teacher’s training were repeatedly mentioned by the participants as being crucial elements of the answer to fight islamophobia and antisemitism.
“Interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue cannot be taught at university. It has to be learned by doing it,” said a young speaker representing a Muslim-Jewish platform.
Ignorance and manipulation of knowledge were also regularly quoted as causes for discrimination behaviors.
Civil society’s action
Participants highlighted the excellent work civil society has done in the refugee crisis.
“We, politicians, need to be humble when we see the power of civil society organisations”, underlined Alice Bah Kuhnke, Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy.
Gina Ebner, EAEA Secretary General, underlined that financial support was needed to support that work at the grassroots level:
“Projects are financed and then stopped, which means that a lot of know-how and expertise get lost. We need more sustainable financing.”
In the light of the refugee crisis, adult education has a lot to offer to the refugees but also to the local population to help them understand what a refugee is, what their background is and what impact their presence on society has. EAEA members are very active in this field; EAEA is currently showcasing some of their initiatives.
Text: Tania BermanPhotos: Audiovisual Services, European Commission