Colloquy on: “European Culture: Identity and Diversity”

Strasbourg, France
8-9 September 2005

Colloquy report

Messages carried forward to the Conference of European Ministers of Culture, Faro/Portugal, 27-28 October 2005


The colloquium “European Culture: Identity and Diversity” forms part of the activities commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention. The event is placed between the opening ministerial conference in Wrocław (9-10 December 2004) and the closing ministerial conference in Faro (27-28 October 2005).

The aim of the colloquium was to explore the fundamental challenges facing cultural cooperation today, and to develop the intellectual and political foundations of future Council of Europe programmes in the areas of education, culture and heritage, youth and sport. It continued and expanded the discussions initiated at the Wrocław Conference and earlier colloquia of the Council of Europe.1

In line with the philosophy and concepts developed by the Council of Europe over the last few decades, the colloquium looked at culture as “all of the values that give human beings their reasons for living and doing”. Accordingly, it not only dealt with the cultural policies of states, but focussed on cultural democracy, cultural development and the right of all to cultural expression as well, thus linking culture to the principles of democracy and human rights.

The colloquium concentrated on two major, interrelated transversal themes: identity and diversity.

Theme A: “Towards a European Identity: The Role of Culture and Dialogue”

The first part of the colloquium revolved around two key issues. The starting point was the notion of identity, where the meeting explored identity formation, the genesis and role of values, the role of language(s), the conditions of a “European identity”, the different components and levels of identity, perceived and real threats to identity etc. Following on from that, the colloquy discussed culture as a form of coherence and examined particularly the role of culture as a primary “vehicle of meaning” and tool for understanding, as the agent of individual and collective human development and the embodiment of social values.

The second aspect was the fundamental role that dialogue and exchange play both for cultural development and the building of a multi-faceted identity. Here the colloquium discussed issues of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, European cooperation with neighbouring regions, particularly the southern shore of the Mediterranean, emerging new forms of cultural interaction, the perception and valuation of difference and the knowledge of other cultures, and related topics. Education in all its forms and institutional contexts was analysed as the key vehicle of social and cultural development, which is central to identity formation and civic participation, the sharing of democratic values, the respect of human rights and the building of confidence and mutual respect between cultures and communities.

Theme B: “Diversity and Cohesion”

The second part of the event was devoted to the need to ensure both diversity and social cohesion, and the balance between the two.

The colloquium first dealt with the fundamental character of cultural diversity. Discussion topics included the emergence of new cultural communities, the situation of minorities and the exchange and consumption of cultural goods and services.

How can social cohesion be strengthened in a situation of cultural diversity? This issue formed the core of the last part of the colloquium. Topics of discussion included the policies promoting democratic culture, participation and inclusion, including education for democratic citizenship and as a means of building up the necessary political and personal attitudes for integrated and cohesive societies. The colloquium also examined the role of culture and education for intercultural learning and the building of social trust. Among many other topics, participants discussed the political frameworks for the management of cultural diversity; access to educational and cultural rights; and the provision of minimum cultural and educational services.

The participants of this colloquium came from all over Europe and from diverse scientific and political backgrounds. Among them were experts familiar with the various areas of cultural policy, who had helped in the past to formulate the goals and develop action programmes at European level. Others were representatives of the 48 signatory States of the European Cultural Convention, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and of the Observers states. Most Steering Committees in the cultural field were represented, as were a number of other international, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations cooperating with the Council of Europe. The colloquy was also attended by many members of the intellectual community of the Alsace region.

The colloquy was organised in cooperation with the French Minister of Culture and Communication and the City of Strasbourg.


Thursday 8 September 2005

Opening session


Opening remarks

Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Benoît Paumier, Ministry of Culture and Communication, France

Fabienne Keller, Mayor of Strasbourg

Jacques Legendre, Chair of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Theme A: “Towards a European Identity: The Role of Culture and Dialogue”

Chair: Catherine Lalumière


“Culture, identity and citizenship”

John Tomlinson, Nottingham Trent University


“For a subversive reason: beyond dialogue and quests for identity”

Mohammed Arkoun, New Sorbonne University (Paris III)


Panel discussion:

“Towards a common European cultural identity: reality or ideal?”

With John Tomlinson, Mohammed Arkoun, Maria Hadjipavlou, Laurent Mazas and René Gutman


General debate

Friday 9 September 2005

Theme B: “Diversity and Cohesion”

Chair: Jacques Toubon


“Protecting and managing cultural diversity”

Mihail Shviydkoy, Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, Moscow


“Inclusion, participation and the role of culture”

Gvozden Flego, University of Zagreb


Panel discussion:

“Turning Europe into an inclusive and cohesive, civic and creative community – future challenges for culture and education”

With Mihail Shvydkoy, Gvozden Flego, Katerina Stenou, Giovanni Di Stasi, Simon Mundy, Michael Raphael and Cézar Bîrzéa


General debate

Closing session

Chair: Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni


Summary by Lynne Chisholm, General Rapporteur


General debate


Closing remarks

- Christian Ter Stepanian, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the Council of Europe, Chair of the Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

- Joaquim Duarte, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the Council of Europe, Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies

Messages carried forward to the Conference of European Ministers of Culture, Faro/Portugal, 27-28 October 2005 

1. There is a need to recognise that identity is a matter of individual choice, not official labelling. Identity does not start and stop with political or administrative borders. Governments do not need to control, define or defend identity – they have to allow for it. Identity is by nature multiple and needs to be depoliticised. For identity to be equally respected, however, there is a responsibility on governments to provide a level of cultural provision that allows full participation in society.

2. The aim should be to go beyond multiculturalism to a more cosmopolitan awareness, while retaining a sense of connection to local communities. We need to educate for a global age. Cultures must not be seen as fixed – let them change and evolve through contact with others to meet fresh challenges. This can best be achieved through real, not merely formal, intercultural dialogue.

3. There is a gap between ministerial declarations of intent and political compliance on the ground. The media is too often used as a divisive force, contrasting ‘us’ with ‘others’, and governments find it too easy to take political advantage of this tendency. To protect against perceived dangers from outsiders, security is overtaking freedom and justice as the dominant and desirable value for the 21st century. Yet this can have serious consequences when insecurity leads to the infringement of rights of others and the constraint of liberty.

4. Within Europe there has been a missed opportunity to create a common cultural sense that enables us to be aware of how much we share. Too often we have concentrated on the details of difference. We must stop using the fact that some societies regard themselves as cultural victims as an excuse for excessive nationalism or claims of ethnic superiority. Inequality must never be a policy of the state. In reality all nations consist of multiple minorities. Nations are manufactured from composite materials. They do not arrive fully formed at one moment in one unit of territory and much of the received history of their construction is selective myth.

5. Culture, and the design of policies to use it, is still seen as marginal in the political hierarchy. Yet until political organisations, the media and official structures understand that culture can have as critical an effect on society as economics, they will not achieve their objectives with the speed or vigour necessary.

6. Identity only becomes an issue when it is challenged or threatened. The perception of threat leads to closure and defence. Because people want self-determination, they try to subdivide whenever they feel they are losing control. Problems of identity and diversity are problems of trust. Macro-level action to create trust has to be supplemented by micro-level projects and vice versa.

7. Cultural diversity can be the enemy of social cohesion unless each culture feels secure. Cultural security is not just about freedom of expression; it requires good social, economic, housing, health and education policies too. Cultural diversity is a practical goal because nobody knows whose experiences and traditions we will need in the future.

8. Management of cultural diversity is not the same as its protection. For the management of cultural diversity you need a good legal base, social policy, democracy, liberty, financial resources and dynamic activity. The state must manage the creation of a common sense of belonging, mutual trust and an aptitude for living together – delicately balanced by cultural protection of diverse traditions and languages.

9. The key to the successful development of a cohesive, diverse, democratic and free Europe is imaginative and enlightened education, facilitating the development of a knowledge-based society – curricula which give opportunities for understanding and engagement with the rich variety of cultural ideas and experiences that travel, technology and migration have made possible in this century.

10. Bearing these factors in mind, the Colloquy asks Ministers to work more closely with the Council of Europe in the following areas:-

i) Intercultural understanding,

ii) Mutual cultural security; the sense that the culture of each person is valued and appreciated, and that nobody is intent on demeaning or destroying it,

iii) The depoliticisation of identity and heritage issues (including languages) between and within states,

iv) Integrating cultural policies with those in other fields, in particular economics, education, youth, social welfare and media,

v) The development of transversal programmes that link culture and democracy (promoting democratic culture and the culture of democracy), education, human rights and mobility,

vi) The design of forward-looking cultural policies and projects that can be applied both at the macro and the micro level,

vii) Research into best practice in intercultural action, inter-religious dialogue and inter-communal security from all member states of the Council of Europe,

viii) Common guidelines and standards for the management of issues concerned with identity and diversity,

ix) Training for officials, cultural and educational practitioners and political strategists in the non-divisive handling of identity, language and heritage,

x) The preparation and distribution of materials on the history of Europe that avoids myth and notions of victory and instead highlights multiple perspectives.


General Directorate IV: Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport
Central Division
Council of Europe
67075 Srasbourg

Tel. +33 390 21 46 40

1 E.g. “The European Identity: Colloquium in three parts” organised in 2001-2002, revolving around the Committee of Ministers’ chair held by Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Luxembourg; and the “Intercultural Forums” organised in 2003 and 2004. Background documents are available on