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“Europe should embrace multiculturalism and avoid narrow definitions of national identities” says Commissioner Hammarberg

Strasbourg, 30.11.2009 – "Europe is still not free from racism, xenophobia and discrimination. Minorities are made targets of hate speech, violence and systematic discrimination, not least in the job market", said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today.

He asked politicians to take such negative tendencies more seriously. "There is a need to analyse and address the very root causes of these human and political failures. Our ability to interact positively with one another will affect the future of Europe."

Referring to the current discussions on national identity in France and some other parts of Europe, the Commissioner underlines that "such discussions could be helpful only if they avoid the trap of promoting one single identity which defines who is included and, by extension, who is excluded."

"We all belong to a number of different categories which depend not only on ethnicity, nationality or faith. The imposition of one allegedly unique identity creates a basis for sectarian confrontation", he warned.

Recalling the importance of social interaction and economic development to promote a mature sense of self-identity, Commissioner Hammarberg recommends the development of integration policies based on pluralism, justice and equal opportunities.

"The school system is essential for building bridges between cultures. Education should be inclusive, non-segregated and teach respect for those who are different", said the Commissioner.

Published fortnightly in English, French and Russian, Viewpoints can be used without prior consent, provided that the text is not modified and the original source is indicated in the following way: "Also available at the Commissioner's website at {C}{C}".