8 November 2002
Cultural co-operation between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries
Commission on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur: Mr Lluis Maria de Puig, Spain, Socialist Group
Link to the Addendum 1 / Link to the Addendum 2
Relations between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries must and can be improved. Enhanced cooperation in the fields of education, heritage and the arts, science, youth, sport and the media should help in easing present tensions.
The Assembly addresses itself at the same time and in parallel to the competent authorities in the member states of the Council of Europe and in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia proposing concrete measures in the fields of education, culture, religion, media and others.
The Assembly also recommends to the Committee of Ministers to consider cultural co–operation with the south Mediterranean countries a priority for the Council of Europe and instructs its Committee on Culture, Science and Education to pursue its work in this matter.
I. Draft resolution
1. Europe is made up of countries of different cultures and traditions. The unifying factor for the 44 Council of Europe countries is their adherence to a set of values, namely democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, as well as their determination to co-operate on a project for a joint future, while preserving their individual cultural specificities.
2. The Assembly is convinced that the values defended by the Council of Europe are universal, and believes that the best reaction to globalisation is to use this phenomenon as a means of co-operating with non-European countries that share certain of these values, beginning with the states that are closest to Europe in geographical terms.
3. Relations between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries - which have all signed the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - must and can be improved. Culture, including education, heritage and the arts, science, youth, sport and the media, is particularly conducive to such co-operation.
4. There are economic, political, social and also cultural tensions in most parts of the world. There are misunderstandings and a considerable degree of incomprehension. The Assembly rejects the facile explanation of such tensions as a clash of civilisations. Although there are indeed major cultural differences between different peoples, these differences should lead to dialogue, not confrontation.
5. Considering the secularisation of political institutions in Europe to be an achievement, the Assembly nevertheless recognises the positive contribution made to European civilisation by the various religious traditions, including Judaism, Islam and in particular Christianity.
6. The Council of Europe would not claim to have any final or comprehensive solutions to all these problems. However, the Assembly is convinced that improved cultural relations between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries would provide the beginning of a solution to wider problems.
7. In order to be successful, the endeavour to improve relations must be backed with a strong political will in both Europe and in the south Mediterranean countries. Many changes are still required.
8. For its part the Assembly might conclude co-operation agreements with parliaments in south Mediterranean countries as a first step towards granting observer status.
9. The Assembly would like at the same time and in parallel to request the competent authorities in the member states of the Council of Europe and in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania , Morocco and Tunisia to give priority to cultural co-operation between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries, and to:
in the educational field:
i. co-operate to eliminate reciprocal stereotypes, prejudices and untruths from the different education systems by jointly revising school textbooks, particularly history books;
ii. promote the learning of the Arabic language in Europe and European languages in the south Mediterranean countries at all educational levels;
iii. encourage the setting up of Arabic language and culture departments in European Universities, and of departments for European languages and cultures in south Mediterranean universities;
iv. establish the requisite mechanisms for student and teacher exchanges by developing and enlarging the ERASMUS concept and facilitating visa arrangements;
v. implement the requisite systems for recognising qualifications, from the secondary level onwards, with particular reference, for higher education, to the principles, goals and methods of the Bologna Process as well as the Council of Europe/Unesco Lisbon Recognition Convention;
in the cultural field:
vi. encourage the translation and publication of the fundamental works of Arab culture in Europe and of European cultural works in the south Mediterranean countries, including contemporary writers and studies on topical issues;
vii. establish and develop contacts and exchanges among artists, with joint exhibitions and music, drama and film festivals;
viii. organise contacts and encounters in the field of folk culture (folklore, gastronomy and traditional costumes);
ix. co-operate in the field of migration policy in order to ensure that immigrants to Europe from south Mediterranean countries become genuine intermediaries between the cultures of the home and host countries;
in the religious field:
x. guarantee freedom of conscience and religious expression, exclude fundamentalism, promote respect for religious differences by providing all religions with equivalent conditions for development;
xi. encourage encounters between different religious leaders by promoting ecumenism and opening the way to genuine inter-faith dialogue;
xii. foster the organisation of debates between intellectuals and theologians on the compatibility of religious practice with human rights, including the impact on women, as set out in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights;
xiii. ensure that education systems provide basic knowledge of the various religions;
in the media field:
xiv. encourage public television corporations to develop programmes in co-operation between TV corporations in the North and South and in the long term to study the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Television channel;
xv. develop, in the public media, informative programmes on political, economic, social and cultural realities in order to ensure objective information in the North on Arab-Muslim societies and in the South on European societies;
xvi. encourage co-operation between European and south Mediterranean journalists in the field of professional ethics;
xvii. energise joint work on the Internet by creating shared sites and portals and virtual areas (universities, press rooms, enterprises, cultural fora) providing for immediate and ongoing exchange and supporting the GALILEO (satellite navigation) and EUMEDIS programmes and expanding EUREKA programmes;
in other fields:
xviii. encourage co-operation and encounters between women from Europe and south Mediterranean countries on questions related to freedom, human rights and gender equality;
xix. set up youth contact and co-operation networks breaking down into various sectors of activity for young parliamentarians, students from different levels and specialities, members of religious groups, artists, athletes, etc;
xx. study the possibilities for joint organisation of amateur or professional sports events, for example by restructuring and giving fresh impetus to the Mediterranean Games;
xxi. encourage the involvement of southern countries in scientific research programmes run by governments, universities, laboratories, industries and enterprises, particularly those conducive to technology transfer;
xxii. promote a twinning policy between European and south Mediterranean local authorities, with a view to close co-operation, particularly in the cultural fields;
xxiii. encourage North-South tourist co-operation, with emphasis on cultural tourism, connect up the tourist promotion systems on both sides and foster the creation of cultural routes, programmes and exchanges;
xxiv. support such Barcelona Process initiatives as Euro Med Heritage, Euro Med Audiovisual and Culture 2000, as well as the development of the Civil Forum, and set up broader co-operation bodies in this field by associating all Council of Europe countries with the south Mediterranean countries.
II. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly recalls its Resolution … on cultural co-operation between Europe and the countries of the south Mediterranean.
2. It recommends that the Committee of Ministers consider such co-operation as one of the Organisation’s priorities and as far as possible associate the countries of the south Mediterranean in the work of the Council of Europe, and in particular:
i. organise campaigns on religious tolerance and understanding;
ii. provide the southern countries with expert assistance, programmes and material to combat illiteracy and develop co-operation in the fields of school textbooks, diplomas, vocational training, language learning and use of audiovisual formulae;
iii. promote and organise an approach to the interpretation of History with historians from both sides, bringing together shared elements to write a History of the Mediterranean in order to ensure that history textbooks express an inclusive rather than exclusive vision of the past and in this context study the advisability of setting up a Mediterranean history-teaching observatory;
iv. re-examine the idea of setting up a geographically decentralised Euro-Arab University which would have faculties in the South and the North but would be unified by means of a virtual campus providing all the advantages of networked universities;
v. develop joint projects in the fields of archaeology and protection of the architectural heritage;
vi. promote encounters and permanent partnerships between men and women of culture on both sides seeking mutual recognition of values, traditions and cultures, based on human rights and fundamental freedoms;
vii. organise encounters and exchanges between writers, philosophers, intellectuals and opinion leaders;
viii. encourage interactivity among the various museums in the Mediterranean as permanent cultural activity centres;
ix. promote encounters among youth organisations from both sides, using the facilities of the Strasbourg and Budapest European Youth Centres;
x. give fresh impetus to the Euro-Arab youth dialogue;
xi. support, as far as possible, the extension of the Barcelona Process youth programmes to all Council of Europe countries: the Action Plan on Dialogue between Cultures and Civilisations aimed at young people, the Tempus programmes, netd@ys, and EuroMed Youth;
xii. organise a think-tank made up of scientists and humanists in order to analyse the ethical implications of scientific progress;
xiii. instigate ongoing relations with such organisations operating in the South as ALECSO, ISESCO, the Arab League, the Research Centre on Islamic History, Art and Culture and the Standing Committee for Information and Cultural Affairs with a view to pragmatic institutionalisation of genuine dialogue between civilisations and cultures;
xiv. encourage accession by southern countries to such Council of Europe conventions as are open to non-member states of the Organisation, especially in the cultural field;
xv. study the preconditions for granting Council of Europe observer status to south Mediterranean countries.
III. Draft order
1. The Assembly recalls its Resolution … and its Recommendation … on cultural co-operation between Europe and the countries of the south Mediterranean.
2. It instructs its Committee on Culture, Science and Education:
i. to develop contacts between Europe and the countries of the south Mediterranean in the fields of education, heritage and the arts, science, youth, sport and the media;
ii. to encourage co-operation, in particular with parliamentarians from the south Mediterranean and such international organisations as ALECSO and ISESCO;
iii. to study the possibilities for dialogue and cultural co-operation with other countries and regions which are close to Europe and share its history, in particular Middle Eastern countries;
iv. to submit an initial assessment of its work no later than two years from now.
II. Explanatory memorandum
by Lluis Maria de Puig
1. Nowadays, the need for dialogue between civilisations, between cultures, between religions, and between people who make the link between such dialogue and the prevention of terrorism, is on everyone’s lips. A multitude of colloquies and conferences on the subject are being held. Nonetheless, some make the mistake of considering civilisations as homogeneous blocs, and claim that a western, Christian bloc is confronting an Arab-Muslim bloc. It is even more dangerous to link terrorism to one particular culture or religion. The reality is considerably more complex, and many cultures and religions co-exist, both in Europe and on the southern side of the Mediterranean.
2. For some time the Parliamentary Assembly has been at pains to impress upon all concerned the need to encourage cultural co-operation, particularly between the West and the Arab-Muslim world. It is plain that the relationship between the various cultures of these wide areas is unsatisfactory, even disturbing, since it has taken a very negative turn in recent years. As everybody is aware, relations are not at their best between Europe and the Arab countries.
3. It has been apparent for years that a gulf has emerged between western countries (i.e. virtually all Council of Europe countries and those of north America) and the countries on the south of the Mediterranean (and, by extension, those of the Arab-Muslim world). More than formerly, there has been a sense of intellectual remoteness, disconnectedness, critical-mindedness and relational hiatus which, though accountable and even logical (in the light of historical retrospect and analysis) are finally very negative and very dangerous. The current crisis makes this clear. At the root of terrorist madness are animosities and obsessions largely born of aggravated extreme radical attitudes, of crazed fundamentalist tendencies. Despite Mr Huntington’s predictions, cultural differences are certainly not the cause of terrorism. Conflicts are not based on religions, and wars are not fought between civilisations. However, several cultural aspects – in which religion plays a major part, and language another - tend to aggravate lack of understanding and distrust. The result is inevitable: communication problems perpetuate mutual ignorance, which leads to distrust of the other party.
4. This situation is exacerbated by economic and social problems and a substantial material lag between the more developed part of the globe and certain regions south of the Mediterranean and in the Middle East which consider themselves excluded from the general progress. To the populations of those poorer countries, the more fortunate nations appear as the eternal imperialists, selfish and domineering exploiters. Many problems, ranging from oil to migration, are conducive to incomprehension and distrust. Furthermore, globalisation – in the way it is managed for the benefit of the strongest rather than perceived as a means of redressing world balance and remedying the problems and poverty of the most deprived - brings still more worry and despair to the citizens of those countries.
5. Politics, with its interpretations and consequences, constitutes another factor. Unending conflicts, such as the one waged between Israel and the Palestinians, are one such consequence. Another is the situation created by the unsolved problems of certain countries in the area which arouse strong solidarity in the Arab-Muslim world and portray the West, especially the United States, as the final culprits for the extension of these problems and sometimes as the opponents of Arabs and Muslims. Nonetheless, the United States, like Europe, is on good terms with most governments of these countries.
6. This report does not aim to answer all the problems that have just been evoked. It would be presumptuous of us to claim that the Council of Europe can offer global and definitive solutions to such highly complex issues. Nonetheless, I am convinced that we can improve relations between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries in the fields of education, culture and the arts, science, youth, sport and the media. I am also convinced that any such improvements would represent the beginning of a solution to wider problems.
7. Relations between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries have experienced highs and lows in the past, and we cannot analyse the current situation without taking account of historical factors. Consequently, it would be useful to remind ourselves of these (see also the report on the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to European culture, Doc. 6497 and appendices, 1991).
8. Starting in Phoenician times and throughout antiquity, especially classical antiquity, the Mediterranean has served as the link between Europe and North Africa. The large number of Greek and Roman ruins which are found all around its perimeter are evidence of this. These relations were maintained following the emergence of Christianity, the fall of the western Roman empire and the Islamisation of the south Mediterranean.
9. In 711, the Arabs and Berbers arrived in the Iberian Peninsula, where they stayed for eight centuries and created Al-Andalus, one of the most important points of contact between Europe and the Arab-Islamic world in the Middle Ages. The city of Cordoba, with its population of 500,000, was in the 10th century both the biggest Islamic capital and the most civilised European city, and gives an idea of what this period was like.
10. In the 11th century, the Christian “reconquest” and the crusades began, and exchanges between Christians and Muslims changed. During the 800 years of Arab presence in western Europe (on the Iberian peninsula but also, for shorter periods, in the south of France and Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and the Balearic Islands) cultural exchanges had been strengthened. They occurred via the troubadours and other European travellers who visited Al-Andalus, trade (frequently carried out by Jewish merchants), diplomatic embassies sent to Cordoba, Christian monasteries on the Iberian Peninsula and schools for translators. These exchanges enabled Europe to rediscover Greek philosophy and to discover Arab science and technologies.
11. From the 16th century onwards, European countries settled in the South Mediterranean: first the Spanish and the Portuguese, then the French, Italians and English. European civilisation “caught up” with Islamic civilisation and overtook it to such an extent that during the Enlightenment the Islamic world was considered as a civilisation in economic and intellectual decline. The European presence continued until the second half of the 20th century, but the countries of the South Mediterranean failed to benefit from the industrial revolution or the developments in thinking that have transformed Europe over the past two centuries.
12. Cultural relations have been maintained, but while intellectuals from both shores concentrated on history and geography, the respective populations are ignorant about the other (in the South) or have stereotypical and false ideas about each other (the North).
13. Today, it is still true that public opinion in Europe and the South Mediterranean lags far behind the views of intellectuals and politicians. On both shores, the media have played a decisive role – and continue to do so – in embedding in our imaginations the false notions that we have of each other. The reactions to 11 September provide many examples of this.
A cultural analysis of 11 September
14. The tragedy of 11 September, as well as the recent attack in Bali, only serve to strengthen our conviction regarding the need to change negative perceptions and to encourage new scenarios for relations between Europe and the Arab-Muslim world. These tragedies oblige us not only to condemn the massacres, but also to conduct a calm and accurate interpretation of what has happened and to look for their causes. Relations between the North and South cannot continue to deteriorate: communication and exchange are essential.
15. No historical explanation, or ideological or political argument, will ever justify the barbarism of the attacks. We must be clear-headed in our analysis and be aware that the attacks on 11 September were not an insane act, were not the crime of a mentally unbalanced person (the length of preparation and the complexity are telling in this respect). The attacks were political and ideological. The fanatics involved had an ideology; they had religious convictions. So too have the Palestinians who are committing daily suicide bombings. This is a cultural problem.
16. These self-sacrificing brands of fanaticism and suicidal obsessions stem from an anti-Western mindset, an attitude of utter rejection and radical confrontation towards a wealthy, dominant world. We cannot be content to demonise Bin Laden and his followers or hound every terrorist gang as if it were a mafia or a crime syndicate. It must be realised that they operated in an “ideological” framework to denounce and stigmatise our behaviour. It would be a monumental error not to realise that this radical and murderous mentality emerged in certain Arab-Muslim countries, which perceive the Western world, and especially the United States, as corrupt, pleasure-seeking and imperialistic. This too is a cultural problem.
17. The problem lies in this critical mood. There is an anti-Western doctrine discernable in the religion, politics and intellectual life of those countries. A current of opinion opposed to Westerners has been developing for years, with untruths and misconceptions but also some foundation. This political and cultural reality must be taken into account so that an effort can be made to reverse it and demonstrate that Europeans are not hedonists or imperialists. Europe must subject itself to self-criticism and review its political stance. This situation can be altered through tangible acts, if we wish to avoid the emergence of new sources of hatred and if Bin Laden is to remain just a sinister isolated page in history.
18. If the threat of the fanatics is to be averted, it is essential to create new conditions through dialogue and co-operation. Important changes can take place in the economic and political arenas. Nonetheless, action in the cultural, religious, educational and information fields will remain decisive. In effect, we cannot expect that these actions will bring those who have chosen the way of terror to renunciation of their terrorist ideas. Work must be done in every field to dispel, through combined action, this dangerous climate which has led them to see themselves as defenders of a cause. Rather than asking ourselves what 11 September has changed, we should ask ourselves what we must change. It seems clear that it will not be enough to introduce changes in the West alone; change is also essential in the Arab-Muslim world.
The European approach: an ethical approach?
19. Two years ago, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly - a part of Europe’s oldest and most extensive pan-European organisation with a specific commitment to human rights - initiated a process of reflection concerning the reaction of an institution such as ours to the problems inherent in Europe-South Mediterranean relations. The starting-point was quite clear: the Council of Europe as a whole could not accept this cultural split, could not witness this deterioration without reacting. Now, more than ever, we must explore every avenue for improving the situation.
20. Our belief in the universality of mankind places us, as peoples enjoying a high degree of prosperity, under a moral obligation of solidarity towards those who are without. This refers not only to economic progress, but also and especially to freedom and democracy. Europe must not and cannot ignore this moral duty and ethical necessity.
21. For moral reasons, we cannot accept a Europe that is indifferent to the wars, conflicts, tyrannies, exploitations and enslavements of our time, whether in our own countries, the South, or anywhere else. Europe cannot declare that human rights are not subject to limitation and prohibit their violation, as it systematically does, unless it is ready at all times to defend these rights on everyone’s behalf. Otherwise, we would convey an image of outright cynicism. Europe has a moral duty to export peace, prosperity, culture and the civil rights to which it aspires for itself, thereby furthering the construction of a fairer, more brotherly and communication-based international society, outside which any human progress will always be hit or miss. Accordingly, Europe must demonstrate that it genuinely wishes peace, stability and global progress for all, and that it is willing to contribute to ensuring a fairer distribution of wealth worldwide for the sake of these goals.
22. We should remember that, from the 15th century onwards, European countries carried out a policy of colonial expansion under which they exploited almost every part of the world, often in a thoughtless and brutal manner. This colonisation was committed in the name of certain moral values (religion, civilisation, culture and progress) which were sometimes put into practice violently, and frequently rendered meaningless by the behaviour of the colonialists. It is not our place to judge, but it should be borne in mind that current conflicts, wars, divisions, confrontations and hatred in several parts of the world originated in the period of colonisation or decolonisation, the latter having been carried out (to say the least) with a blatant lack of sensitivity.
23. European countries have a responsibility in various present-day conflicts: the Middle East, the south Mediterranean seaboard and sub-Saharan Africa. Consequently, we are now under a moral obligation to draw closer to those countries and help to improve their position. It would be illusionary to hope to rewrite history, but we have a duty to show those countries that although the colonial era was a period of exploitation, an altogether different attitude now prevails.
24. All these critical remarks concerning the western world and Europe should not hide the considerable efforts made by Europe with regard to the countries of the south Mediterranean. The European programmes for co-operation, solidarity and development assistance to these countries represent more than half of all international assistance. It is not true that all European countries are rich; from the South’s perspective, there are many reasons to identify with a number of central and eastern European countries, which are suffering from major economic problems. The reality is undeniable: Europe, and especially the European Union, is by far the largest contributor to the development of the south Mediterranean. However, one cannot overlook the seemingly paradoxical fact that European markets are closed to products from the south Mediterranean.
25. That was our basic line of argument: rediscovering the commitments which arise from our history, and calling our ethical and moral imperatives to mind in order to give new impetus to relations between the Council of Europe and the south Mediterranean countries. Economics and politics are not in the remit of our Committee, since its mandate is confined to education, heritage and the arts, science and youth and sportand the media. It is important to have a general framework in order to work effectively in our own sphere, that of culture in the broad sense.
26. Our committee has for many years addressed issues in the field of cultural relations between Europe and the various countries of the Mediterranean Basin. Its work has included the recommendations on “Religion and democracy”, “History and history teaching in Europe”, “Co-operation in the Mediterranean Basin”, “The Jewish contribution to European culture”, “Religious tolerance”, “The fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance” and “The contribution of Islamic civilisation to European culture”, in which we put proposals to our governments, most of which unfortunately have not been acted upon.
The situation in the South Mediterranean
27. Many problems remain to be resolved in the South. The countries of the South Mediterranean must also conduct their own self-criticism. Their systems must move forward in many areas. An enormous gulf exists between rich and poor and is perhaps more striking in this region than elsewhere, between families whose lifestyles are ostentatious and wasteful and the rest of the population, who can barely survive. The political élites frequently take sides with those whom they claim to fear (for example, military co-operation with the United States).
28. It is disturbing to observe violations of human rights that are totally unacceptable in the modern age. The position of women in certain Arab countries must change. Our Assembly has on several occasions examined this state of affairs, which is completely incompatible with our perception of human dignity and human rights.
29. As we are aware, religious fundamentalism also exists; it is radicalising certain social groups in Europe and the south Mediterranean countries. This approach favours irrational dogmatism and rejection of others, and also creates obstacles to understanding and dialogue. This is a cultural reality, but with a clear political dimension.
30. Last July, the United Nations published a report on Arab development for the first time. Drawn up by Arab experts and co-financed by the Arab League, this report is very critical of the present situation. Despite enormous oil revenues, all the Arab countries have fallen behind in comparison with the rest of the world. 15% of men and 30% of women are still illiterate and the region has the lowest “freedom rating” in the world. According to this report’s authors, there are three main causes for this situation: insufficient freedom (lack of respect for human rights, cumbersome bureaucracy, restrictions on private initiative, civil society and the media), insufficient participation by women (which deprives the region of the creativity and productivity of half its citizens) and, finally, insufficient knowledge and skills.
31. Many Muslim countries have not yet succeeded in constructing a democracy, as we understand that term in Europe, not to mention pluralism, equal rights and freedom of religion, thought or expression. According to the German Islamicist R. Glagow, strict application of the fundamental and unchanging principles of Islam has led to the destruction of Islam’s own culture. It is for the politicians (both men and women) of the south Mediterranean countries to show us that Islam is not incompatible with democracy and social progress.
32. European experts, scientists and intellectuals have no difficulty in finding common ground with their homologues from the south Mediterranean. Many educated individuals from the South are partners in dialogue and use the same criteria as we do, which they have learnt in Western universities. To their great regret, however, they cannot speak on behalf of their co-religionists, with whom they themselves have problems of comprehension.
33. Despite this situation in the South, we must emphasise the genuine possibilities for change. There are interlocutors who wish to establish dialogue and move towards democracy and human rights. In bringing this about, we are counting on a considerable section of the population and on leaders who may be willing to introduce this change.
34. There is no multilateral interlocutor in the South, since, from Nasser’s time to today, all efforts to build unified structures have failed. We could establish co-operation arrangements with the Arab League and the Union of the Arab Maghreb, but it must be recognised that these are not multilateral political institutions comparable with our own. We welcome the recent institutionalisation of the African Union, which has replaced the outmoded and ineffective OAU, although we do not yet know if this organisation will be able to offer tangible possibilities for joint activity. In any case, there is nothing to prevent us seeking to develop a multilateral approach, even if it must be implemented country-by-country in the South.
What should be done?
35. Our approach is a multilateral one, based on co-operation between the Council of Europe (and thus all of its 44 member countries) and the south Mediterranean. This does not rule out bilateral activities. However, it is necessary to bear certain realities in mind, primarily what might be called the “Mediterranean logic”, namely the need to establish instruments and projects that take account of the Mediterranean Basin as the context for action.
36. The Council of Europe’s members includes countries with a strong Islamic tradition (Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey) , which is not the case for the European Union, for example; this puts the Council in a privileged position in its dealings with the Arab-Muslim world.
37. Cultural cooperation is not just a tool for resolving conflicts and difficulties. It brings enduring enrichment, opens new avenues, bestows a heritage and represents a value in itself, a structural asset. Our goal is to work in a sustainable perspective in this sphere, innocent of plain opportunism. Cultural co-operation involving the Mediterranean region can play a genuine part in furthering exchanges and knowledge between cultures and societies, to breaking down isolation and to creating a new atmosphere of communication and exchange.
38. There are currently numerous initiatives that focus on the Mediterranean, and we ought to give our backing to the major institutions that are seeking to find solutions to problems that are of concern to us all: firstly, the European Union, which organises a Euro-Mediterranean Conference and manages the MEDA programmes (and we should assess their scope and the possibilities for co-operation), ALECSO, ISESCO and of course Unesco. With regard to non-governmental organisations, we must mention the European Cultural Foundation, with its programme on the history of the Mediterranean and “Mediterranean Meeting Points”, and the King Baudouin Foundation, which runs a programme to raise awareness of the Euro-Mediterranean cultural heritage.
Fields for co-operation
39. Undoubtedly, religion is one of the most important fields. The most pressing problem is fundamentalism, whether Muslim or Christian. This attitude results in rejection of the other, who is viewed as a heretic. Those who have a fundamentalist religious approach see those who are different as enemies. They perceive a danger and permanent threat to what they hold sacred when faced with different morals, mentalities and beliefs.
40. Lack of knowledge about Islam in Europe and reservations about Christianity or secularism in the South are the result of ignorance, exacerbated by a lack of objective information. Incorrect views of the other must be rectified, and religious dialogue and ecumenism encouraged; we must rethink the teaching of different beliefs and churches and revise school textbooks. Monotheism emerged around the Mediterranean; the religions of the book blossomed around this sea. Respect and mutual comprehension are both possible and necessary.
41. Education and training are the foundation of culture. This is a vast area for co-operation. In order to encourage mutual knowledge and respect, our respective educational systems should be revised, as there is a great gulf between them. A first step should be stepping up the fight against illiteracy in the south. The Council of Europe could offer its experience in this area, whether in terms of school textbooks, equivalence of qualifications or vocational training.
42. The educational fields in which co-operation should be particularly close are: historical interpretation; language learning, information on other cultures, education for migrants, student and teacher exchanges from secondary level onwards, recognition of university degrees, the possibility of setting up a Euro-Arab university. Education is a sensitive sector, which should lay the foundations for a new relationship.
43. As regards cultural heritage, the conservation of archaeological sites and preservation of the architectural heritage are projects that should be conducted in partnership. The heritage of a long and remarkable past should be given greater prominence.
44. With regard to culture in the traditional sense, meetings, co-operation and exchange are possible and desirable in several fields: dialogue between intellectuals, artists and researchers in what are called the “humanities”; organising meetings; establishing a network of contacts between writers, artists, communicators, opinion-formers, etc. All the artistic fields, from literature to music, theatre to cinema, architecture to painting, cooking to folklore, can be used to discover and move closer to others.
45. Young people are our future. If we wish to improve future relations with the countries in the south and bring about a more positive and pleasant situation, it is essential to work with young people. The Council of Europe’s youth sector has already launched a Euro-Arab youth dialogue to which our Committee contributed. The project was overtaken by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it could be re-launched in a new form.
46. The network between young people’s organisations should also be promoted. We are interested in establishing contacts, and NGOs are a very effective means of creating fellow-feeling and commitment. They can also help to resolve the specific problems facing young people.
47. The Internet is undoubtedly one instrument that could open new avenues for co-operation. Although Europe is undeniably ahead of the south Mediterranean in this field, the Internet is a tool in which progress can be made very quickly. We can create virtual (but genuine) areas of communication which have hitherto been inconceivable.
48. Sport, the quintessential popular entertainment, is followed with passion and can be used to further our aims. Television means that the great European sportsmen and women, footballers, tennis players and Formula 1 drivers are known and supported throughout the countries of South Mediterranean. Equally, we are familiar with distinguished athletes from this exceptional region, which produces young people who are especially talented in long-distance running. The memory of the Mediterranean Games is still strong: an attempted mini-Olympics for the Mediterranean Basin. The first steps towards sporting co-operation have been taken: in January this year, Morocco organised a Euro-Mediterranean seminar in Marrakech on the fight against doping, and this summer, Tunisia asked to accede to the Council of Europe’s Anti-Doping Convention. At the same time, it would be advantageous to give thought to the consequences, sometimes adverse, of initiatives such as the Paris-Dakar rally.
49. Scientific and technological research also provides opportunities for exchange. We are aware that access to technology would enable the South to improve its economic position. Together with universities, businesses and laboratories could provide good opportunities for co-operation, supported by political will. In their turn, the (European Union’s) major European projects for research and development should allow for participation by the southern countries.
50. With their enormous influence, the media have an essential role to play in improving the climate in both communities. Ideally, the public or private media and journalists should work to promote dialogue and exchange. Complicity between the media should be encouraged, so that information is not manipulated. Their work should help to calm public opinion and facilitate north-south relations. This is not a question of interventionism or interference, quite the opposite. We are eager to see genuine pluralism and a free press everywhere, and to ensure that, through vocational training and awareness-raising, the mass media and professionals employed in them make it a priority to enhance relations with our neighbours in the South.
(a) The Majorca colloquy
51. A first step was taken in Palma de Majorca in October 2000, at a Colloquy on culture and cooperation between the Council of Europe and Mediterranean non-member countries in Palma de Majorca, entitled “The Mediterranean: Cultural partnership?”, where these ideas were enlarged upon and, more importantly, were discussed with representatives of the parliaments of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The record of this encounter shows the value and quality of the exchanges between parliamentarians from the north and south of the Mediterranean (AS/Cult (2000) 35).
52. The conclusions of the Majorca colloquy confirmed the demands and aspirations of all concerned, and prompt us to press ahead still further. Specific proposals for action were made, which should be included in our recommendation:
- carry on encounters between parliamentarians from both sides;
- establish a dialogue on religious tolerance;
- revive the plan to set up a Euro-Arab university;
- open dialogue and set up contacts for mutual recognition of values, traditions and cultures;
- introduce a mutual system for teaching European languages in the South and Arabic in the North;
- try to ensure that the news broadcast by Northern media concerning the South, and vice versa, is truthful and emphasises the positive aspects;
- enhance cooperation in all areas of culture and education;
- establish coordination with the basket of proposals on social, cultural and human issues arising from the Barcelona Declaration;
- promote intercultural dialogue and education;
- eliminate stereotypes in education;
- frame a policy on twinnings between local authorities in either region;
- organise campaigns on religious tolerance and understanding;
- foster meetings between philosophers and theologians or religious leaders;
- help the Maghreb countries accede to certain Council of Europe cultural conventions;
- promote cultural activities in the Mediterranean area such as the Permanent Conference of Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators, writing and translation of books and theatrical and musical exchanges;
- help to found networks of new communication technologies;
- encourage the revision of history textbooks to eliminate all forms of prejudice;
- support the various NGOs and institutions of civil society working in this field.
(b) The Rabat Colloquy
53. A second colloquy, entitled “Meeting-points in Culture” was held on 8 - 9 April 2002 in the Chamber of Representatives of Morocco, Rabat. The list of those invited included parliamentary delegations from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia, a number of experts from those countries or from Council of Europe countries (though not all attended), and representatives of international organisations. The meeting was held at a time of obvious tension owing to the aggravation of the Middle Eastern crisis.
54. The attendance of and statements by several Moroccan Ministers and the Speaker of the Parliament gave the colloquy a distinct political impact. Discussion was greatly enhanced by the participation of the experts invited, which allowed for in-depth and practical consideration of many areas. Our rapporteur, Mr Cherribi, presented a number of proposals by way of conclusion:
- rewriting the history of the Mediterranean without untruths;
- setting up an observatory on Mediterranean history;
- establishing a Euro-Mediterranean TV channel;
- founding a Mediterranean Art Festival;
- founding a Mediterranean Museum;
- setting up a Mediterranean Peace Observatory;
- promoting the introduction of philosophy into education in all Mediterranean countries;
- the Council of Europe should lend its expertise and all its potential to help build a more united Maghreb which could espouse the fundamental values of the Council of Europe;
- promoting agreements on migration between countries of arrival and origin and, for the former, a genuine religious and cultural reception structure;
- assisting the development of tourism in the Southern countries;
- extending the Erasmus and Tempus programmes southwards;
- facilitating the issue of visas for cultural cooperation purposes;
- promoting partnership and cooperation for consolidation of dialogue between cultures.
(c) Other contacts
55. At the Assembly’s part-session in September 2001, I met an Algerian parliamentary delegation which was paying a visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
56. A delegation from the Republic of Sudan, composed of MM Mubarak Mohamed Ali Magzoub, Minister of Education and Scientific Research, Abdulla Ahmed Abddallaa, Advisor to the President of the Republic of Sudan, Ramon Vinals i Soler, Goodwill Ambassador to the EU, Ali R. Mahmoud, Consultant, Sudan – Council of Europe Cultural Development Committee, Mahmoud Ramadan, Council for International People’s Friendship and Kamal Eldin Alsayed, Private Office of the Sudan Presidency, attended our committee meeting on 25 April 2002.
57. From 28 June to 1 July, I attended the Euro-Mediterranean Conference against Poverty, organised by the North-South Centre and the Centre for the Study of Developing Countries, which was held in Alexandria. Taking advantage of this visit to Egypt, I met with Prof. Ahmed Sourour, President of the People’s Assembly, Prof. Hossan Badrawi, Chair of the Education Committee, Mr Sami Mahran, Secretary General of the parliament, Mr Gaber Al-Asfour, Secretary General of the Higher Council for Culture, Mr Chérif El Shoubashy, First under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, and Ms Dhalyia Khanis, Head of the Arab League’s cultural division. Everyone I met expressed keen interest in co-operation with the Council of Europe, but, despite this interest, the letters that I sent on my return have not yet been answered.
58. The Committee on Culture, Science and Education invited the ambassadors of the six south Mediterranean countries for an exchange of views at its meeting on 30 October 2002. Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania and Tunisia were represented and contributed to a very lively exchange. The views expressed were duly taken into account in the present report.
Conclusions and directions
59. Our readings, meetings and discussions have led to a number of observations. Firstly, that there is a genuine and worrying gulf between European mentalities and societies and those of the south Mediterranean. This gulf is primarily cultural. The distance is erroneous, regrettable and dangerous, but it is genuine and profound, and it would be disastrous to ignore it and to fail to take its measure. It should push us to go in a radically opposite direction, and to move towards convergence, co-operation, exchange and sharing.
60. In our opinion, some of the factors resulting in this situation originate in the North: the western attitude is too frequently encumbered by a colonialist undertone (and thus by continued economic exploitation, in very varied and sophisticated forms), by excessive paternalism, sometimes by a lack of consideration and explicit or implicit contempt towards these societies, and by a false and over-generalised concept of the Arabs and Islam. This attitude and its consequences, extended over time, have led to significant lack of understanding and mistrust in the South.
61. In addition to the undesirable effects of this perception on the part of Europeans, we found shortcomings in the South that facilitate such widespread anti-western and critical feeling. Among the populations of North Africa, there are many features that facilitate this distance: internal divisions, undemocratic systems, economic policies that are not always to the population’s benefit, cultural approaches, ancestral traditions, theocratic fundamentalist approaches that dictate lifestyles and political behaviour, and finally a negative concept of the non-Muslim world. Such problems result in distrust and rejection of anything that is different, foreign or western.
62. It is, of course, a challenge for the Council of Europe to find solutions and to implement them. Our Organisation has considerable skills in terms of dialogue with the Muslim countries, since it has member States with a strong Islamic presence and tradition. This fact must be put to good advantage.
63. Globalisation is, to a large extent, an economic phenomenon, but I would suggest that it is primarily a phenomenon based on communication and information, and is therefore cultural. We can make use of globalisation as an instrument for the changes that we advocate. We can use communication, truthful information and sincere discussion to transform the current negative atmosphere. The computer and television can become highly effective tools if we have the political will to make use of them.
64. The potential for dialogue and co-operation is immense, and the draft recommendation shows that projects do exist. We need only look into them. Beyond strictly cultural links with the Council of Europe, it is clear that it would be desirable and appropriate to find approaches that would further political rapprochement. Countries such as the United States, Mexico or Canada have observer status with our institutions, while our near neighbours from the south Mediterranean do not. The time has certainly come to consider this possibility, by studying the arrangements for representation of these countries, and the criteria to be met by them.
65. Another possible form of co-operation is accession by the south Mediterranean countries to the Council of Europe’s conventions and its open partial agreements. The majority of conventions are open to non-member states, but to date only Morocco (party to one convention) and Tunisia (party to two conventions) have taken advantage of this option. It seems desirable that all these countries be encouraged to participate more fully, in particular by joining the North-South Centre.
66. These are the ideas, data and analyses that we have identified and developed. All these aspects will undoubtedly be expanded through discussion within the committee, and will enable us to submit a draft recommendation that is relatively ambitious and, I hope, equal to the current requirements. It consists in a series of forward-looking proposals which are specific and bold, but possible and achievable if the political will is there. In any case, we believe it is worth seeking to make progress in this cultural field. The challenge is a noble and pragmatic one. We cannot refuse the opportunity to take it up.
67. This work has been carried out with conviction and enthusiasm. We believe that culture is a instrument which enshrines values and transcends minds, and is capable of opening locked doors and creating bridges. Culture offers political “added value” that is crucial in overcoming the delicate situation in which we find ourselves.
68. There is nothing that condemns us to live separately and without trust, unable to communicate and in confrontation with each other. There are possibilities for ties, for exchange, mutual enrichment and friendship between Europe as a whole and the South Mediterranean. Consequently, we must end the distance and silence existing between the North and the South, and focus on the cultural affinities that are present. The potential is there. Multilateral ties allow for extensive cultural co-operation. We can create a genuine co-operation network and change many negative attitudes rapidly, through objective information and by demonstrating mutual respect and goodwill. Dialogue must now be established, strengthened and extended. This is the aim of our approach.
Reporting committee: Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Reference to committee: Doc. 8854, Ref. No 2545 of 9.11.2000
Draft resolution, recommendation and order adopted unanimously by the committee on 30 October
Members of the committee: MM. de Puig (Chairman), Saglam, Baronne Hooper MM. Prisacaru (Vice-Persons), Akhvlediani, Apostoli, Asciak, Bajrami, Banks (Alternate: Russell-Johnston), Barbieri, Berceanu, Berzinš, Billing, Braga, Mrs Castro, MM. Chaklein, Cherribi, Colombier, Mrs Cryer, MM. Cubreacov, Dalgaard, Mrs Damanaki, Mrs Delvaux-Stehres, Mrs Domingues, Mr Duka-Zólyomi, Mrs Fernández-Capel, MM. Gadzinowski, Galoyan, Gentil, Gierek (Alternate: Podgosrski), Mrs Glovacki-Bernardi, MM. Goris, Haraldsson, Hegyi, Higgins (Alternate: Mooney), Iannuzzi, Irmer, Mrs Isohookana-Asunmaa, MM. Jakic, Jarab, Kalkan, Mrs Katseli (Alternate: Skoularikis), Mrs Klaar, Mrs Kutraité Giedraitiené, MM. Lachat, Legendre, Lekberg, Lengagne, Libicki, Mrs Lucyga, MM. Maass, Malgieri (Alternate: Bianco), Marxer, Mrs Melandri, MM. Melnikov, Mestan, Mrs Milotinova, MM. Nigmatulin, O’Hara, Mrs Pintat Rossell, MM. Rakhansky, Rockenbauer, Rybak, Schellens, Mrs Schicker, MM. Schneider, Schweitzer, Seyidov, Shybko, Mrs Skarbřvik, MM. Sudarenkov, Theodorou, Vakilov, Valk, Wodarg, Yürür, Mrs Zaćiragić, Mrs Zafferini, ZZ… (Romania) (Alternate: Mr Ionescu).
N.B. The names of those present at the meeting are printed in italics
Head of secretariat: Mr Grayson
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mme Theophilova, Mr Torcatoriu