Cultural cooperation in the Mediterranean

December 2003 -

From 13 to 16 November, over 60 cultural operators and policy makers from both shores of the Mediterranean gathered at the Escuela de Traductores de Toledo to attend the third Enlargements of Minds seminar, dealing with the European enlargement from a Mediterranean perspective.

The European Cultural Foundation launched the action-line "Enlargement of Minds' to discuss the cultural consequences of the European enlargement. After seminars on the Balkans (Amsterdam, June 2003) and Eastern Europe (Krakow, October 2003), North-South relations were the main topic in Toledo, with the aim of proposing a set of concrete recommendations for actions and tools needed for an improved cross-border collaboration.

But is 'the new Europe' at all an issue in the Mediterranean? Isn't its impact on cultural cooperation with the Southern neighbours a 'non-issue' in the current troubled international context where walls and wars hamper mobility and each day people try to enter 'fortress Europe' by rickety boats?

Indeed, immigration is playing a large role in current Euro-Med relations. According to 'migrant' authors Abdelkader Benali and Antonio Lozano, the media are an important tool to change the image of the immigrant. 'Only now, the second generation is trying to formulate a hybrid identity, linked both to the motherland and the new home. Integration often means taking on multiple identities,'says Benali during a panel discussion. However, it is still difficult for Europe to accept the melting pot concept, according to his colleague Lozano. 'We suffer from loss of historic memory. Immigrants in the 60s were invited to fulfill an economic need, whereas nowadays, illegal immigrants come uninvited, which is a totally different context. We should try to understand the immigrants, and break through cycles of fear. Especially culture should play an important role.'

Kirsten van den Hul works for European Cultural Foundation