The European Professionals Network (EPN) was pleased to participate in the ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) conference on “Migration and Cultural Integration in Europe” on December 11, 2013. The event was organised by ifa and took place at the Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the EU. Johannes Jung, Head of the Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the EU as well as Ronald Grätz, secretary General at ifa and Charles-Etienne Lagasse, President of EUNIC, opened the conference by sharing their personal remarks and examples on the subject. They reframed the debate and gave the word to the first panel of speakers. Nkechinyere Madubuko, Journalist and Sociologist successfully moderated the discussions.
Keynote speaker, Christian Joppke, chair in General Sociology at the University of Bern in Switzerland, expressed his view and main concerns on multiculturalism and civic integration. According to him, there are two critical integration issues: language and religion. The first is additive while the latter one is exclusive since we can only have one at a time. Regarding civic participation, national variations can be observed in the hash of policy, meaning that France and England will, for example, focus on different integration processes.
Three panel speakers participated to the first discussion on “New Perspectives on the Cultural Integration of Migrants” by giving a presentation which exposed their work and organisations. Sarah Cooke O’Dowd, Policy Analyst at Migration Policy Group and Communication Manager for Sirius, introduced the work of these two organisations and the Measuring Migrant Integration MIPEX which focuses on education. Larisa Inić, Coordinator of the Intercultural Cities Programme in the Serbian city of Subotica, explained the origins of the historical minorities and the intercultural and education strategy put in place to break prejudices and offer education services to everyone. Ricard Zapata-Barrero, Director of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Immigration (GRITIM) at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, introduced the concept of spanishness and highlighted the impact of historical context on the perception of diversity.
The second panel covered “Cultural Institutes and Cultural Integration of Migrants”. Costanza Menzinger, Coordinator of the language programme PLIDA at the Società Dante Alighieri, gave a brief description of the Italian policies for linguistic integration of adult migrants and the programmes proposed by the Società to help them in the integration process. Alexander Kruckenfellner, Project Leader Language and Integration Programme of Goethe-Institut in Munich, stressed out the importance of creating a culture of recognition. In order to do so, the institute organises workshops and participates to conferences in order to reach this objective. Finally, Martin Eichtinger, Ambassador and Director General of Cultural Policy at the Austrian Federal Ministry of International and European Affairs, exposed Austria’s situation and its migration history. As a result of the high number of non-Austrian citizens – 11% – Austria’s citizenship law has been changed.
To conclude, Annika Rembe, EUNIC’s ingoing President shared remarks and summed up the main points developed during the conference. Immigration and integration are crucial issues which need to be handled due to their importance for the well-being of our society. Unfortunately, the risks of making mistakes in this field are substantial. Consultation and dialogue are consequently required to reduce uncertainties. She closed the seminar by raising the question of tolerance in the context of migration.