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Events in 2005
Participating countries
Conference"Intercultural Dialogue: The Way Ahead"
28-29 October 2005
Programme (pdf)
  "European Culture: Identity and Diversity" Colloquy report
  Open Platform of Cooperation (pdf)
  Memorandum of co-operation with the Anna Lindh Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures

Coordinated programme of activities between the Council of Europe and the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO)

  Faro Declaration (pdf)
  Framework Convention (pdf)
  Explanatory report (pdf)
  Wroclaw Procedings (pdf)
  Picture Gallery of Faro Conference
Colloquy on "European Culture: Identity and Diversity"
8-9 September 2005
Speakers and their contribution
List of participants
  Summary (pdf)
Opening Conference
9-10 December 2004
Awards Ceremony for Five Cultural Routes
The new dimensions of Europe
50 years of the European Cultural Convention (pdf)
Text of the Convention - Chart of signatures et ratifications
40 years of cultural co-operation 1954-1994 by  Etienne GROSJEAN
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Colloquy on: “European Culture: Identity and Diversity”

Strasbourg, France
8-9 September 2005

Inclusion, participation and the role of culture

Gvozden Flego, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Since I prefer a lively discussion to a monotonous and monological presentation, I will be brief. Being brief, I will express a thesis, in the form of points or labels, instead of detailed argumentation and a long discourse. However, I will not focus merely on the two subjects, mentioned in the title but wish to discuss four points concerning culture. Namely: its very character, the culture of peace, education, and human self-projections.


I understand culture in a very broad sense: it is a human invention by which humans believe they have created their own rules about how to live. This very specific conditio humana starts the artificial, primarily the non-natural i.e. cultural, human existence. We humans are what we are as defined by our culture.

Culture, understood as a totality of human rules and deeds, thoughts, physical artifacts and social institutions, is the result of many individual efforts and contributions to humanise nature. At the same time, these individual efforts have to be collectively approved or accepted. This is why, by its very character, culture has to be considered as a collective human deed. By its very character, it is cooperation between people and a cultivation of the quality of their lives.

Culture is often attributed to the human capacity to reason which produces a meaningful lingual communication. This meaningfulness, the magic transformation of things, processes and feelings into words has been achieved, thanks to symbolisation. And creating symbols is not exclusively based on reason but is an activity composed of conscious as well as unconscious components of the whole human being.

So presented, culture might be considered as universal, as valuable for all humans, being at work in all recognised human communities. But looking from such a 'systemic point of view', the concrete ways of symbolizing, the arbitrary attribution of a symbol to a meaning becomes the cross-roads, from which particular lingual communities or cultures differentiate. After the tower of Babylon people started to speak different languages, through which they socialised as well as individualised; people, at least at the beginning of their existence, share most views and values of their respective communities, i.e. cultures; based on these views and values, they establish political communities, i.e. nations, they produce art, write literature, become educated. It is inside such cultural frameworks that people wonder about the sense of life, about their existential goals, about ways and means to achieve happiness. We are ever more aware that particular cultures do influence the development of individual character traits and we are ever more and more aware of the existence of collective characteristics of people, of so-called collective identities.

Culture is simultaneously individual and collective. It immediately shows that we humans are living together and it demonstrates that it should remain so. As Hegel claims in his “Philosophy of Right”, in a civil society (bürgerliche Gesellschaft) human beings are bound by the "system of needs", by deep and unavoidable interdependence. And this is an additional reason why culture in general and cultures in particular, need to be considered as attempts to reflect on how we live together. And how we can live together.

This was my first point.


One cannot get rid of one's own – theoretical and immediate – experiences. Coming from Croatia, almost half of the last 15 years I experienced war: destruction, killings, suffering, misery in addition to existential uncertainty. Following the two diametrical ways of living, namely living in peace and living in war, I am inclined to divide culture into two major groups: the culture of war and the culture of peace, the culture of antagonism and the culture of cooperation, the culture of elimination and the culture of inclusion, the culture of tearing apart and the culture of putting together. War is a crude and violent tool to solve problems or to impose oneself on others. As violent, as crude and as primitive, its manner of relating is much more animal than human and much more natural than cultural. However, I consider this orientation as culture given that a great deal of human effort has been invested into making and winning wars, since nowadays a great part of research and industry is invested and involved in armies and armament, for potential or actual war(s).

There is no question that I am, indeed we are, on the side of peace. Nonetheless, there are still many on the side of war. Some may argue by citing Heraclites, the Greek philosopher who dates back to the dawn of western culture, that war is the mother of all things. They might refer to modern political theory and economic models, showing that competition is the best guarantee for progress, for both individuals as well as political communities. Reference might be made to the economists and their conceptions of the modern market as a place where we are fighting each other in order to achieve the very best results in order to get maximum quality and quantity for minimal expense. One could also argue that there would be no sports without efforts to beat the other and that there would be no profit without attempts to be better than competitors.

While making efforts to eradicate war, I am not trying, even as a professionally deformed professor of philosophy, to neglect diversity and to look for an absolute unity in a world of diversity. As a cultural pacifist, I am not going to plead for any kind of absolute harmony among different people. Nor am I trying to deduce a moral teaching out of the Christian belief that we are all brothers (it should be said: brothers and sisters) and that we should a priori love each other in God. I am only trying to draw some lessons out of cultural achievements. Let us focus less on open conflict and more on constructive cooperation! Let us insist less on differences and more on common traits!

The pleading for the culture of peace was my second proposal to be discussed.


So, I believe culture in general works for peace. It undermines wars and strives towards the predominance of a peaceful and cooperative co-existence. One should remember that modern philosophy started with Hobbes in the form of an anti-war campaign. In spite of this very fact, the question remains open: how to promote peace and how to make it stronger?

Cultural achievements opened new horizons, or at least enlarged the old ones. The process of symbolizing and meaningful communication was a revolution in our long evolution. The invention of learning and teaching was a logical extension of it. And an organised and institutionalised education became another differentia specifica of homo erectus.

I do not intend to be shocking, but I have to be clear: teaching and particularly schooling imposes meta-physics – it introduces students to something that is behind, or beyond something which is seeable, touchable, smellable. It connects students with others, it introduces them to that which is different. The acquired knowledge opens new opportunities. Put simply, otherness is experienced as a desirable richness. To know means to understand but it also means to practice too. Therefore, learning about others implies that others entered into students' lives. It means that students have started to cooperate with others.

The school system is a very sophisticated and technicized part of our culture. However, learning has become more informal, with self-education or life-long learning commonplace. Using the internet, reading books and journals, travelling, meeting others and otherness – all this brightens our views and enlarges our horizons. And it operates continuously. We, humans, are learning permanently.

And this would be my 3rd point, but it needs an addendum. The system of formal education is the largest project in every country and as such is politically very important. What's more, this system is extremely influential, both regarding individual and social welfare. However, the way it enables students for their future and the contents through which it is doing so are under national umbrellas. And it seems to me that national education systems in Europe need some changes. It might be of great importance to try again to introduce into secondary schooling some kind of “Bologna process”, at least in order to discover some common forms of thinking about common futures.


Cultures have probably been established and developed based on the human ability to memorise, to represent, to symbolize, to reason and to fantasize. The combination of these factors creates amazing results: religions, arts, architecture and urbanism, techniques and technologies, philosophy and science but also projections about better worlds and better human relations. Step by step, besides the present, humans discovered the temporal, divided into past, present and future.

At this final point, I would like to introduce a short reflection on identity. Identity means exactly what it is, the equality to itself, the sameness, and, according to Aristotle, it means what it is to be (TO TI ÊN EINAI). Analyzing historical, namely temporal dimensions, Maurice Merleau-Ponty would say that the past is what has already happened and as such it is determined; the present is actually nonexistent since it is just the tinny connection between past and future and whenever I say "now", this very moment becomes past. The only temporality which is undetermined, open, which offers opportunity, which involves possibility, which contains freedom, is the future.

We are very aware that our cultures, our traditions and particularly our life histories determine us. They strongly influence our ways of thinking and of deciding, our ways of planning and of acting. But we have to be ever more aware that, especially in the modern age, and particularly at the end of the 20th century, the world became dramatically dynamic and "everything flows". So we are. We humans, dreamers, trying to actualize our dreams, we are making of ourselves something new, so we are "in a making". We are in a way of becoming. We are made up of our projects at least as much as of our identities, of our pasts. We are looking into our future much more than into our past. And if we have to keep the concept of "identity", I would prefer to call it "projective identity" or "identity in the making".

If this is the case, we have the chance to rethink the question of how we can live together. Or better: how should we live together. Particularly since we are ever more aware that whatever has been made by humans is not so good that it could not be better. And particularly if the possibility for establishing the new would be steered by a peaceful, cooperative synergy.