24/09/2010

The Anna Lindh Report: a new life into the UfM?

On September 15 was presented in Brussels the Anna Lindh report Euromed intercultural trends 2010. As a reminder, the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures, established in 2005 by the Governments of the Euro-Mediterranean (Euromed), is a network of civil society organizations working to promote intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean region.

This report is a scientific tool which combines a study conducted on a sample of 13,000 families from 13 countries in the region trying to identify current trends in the mutual perceptions, values, behaviors among the people on both sides of the Mediterranean, with a series of tests conducted by a multidisciplinary group of experts from different countries of the region.

The process, according to the Anna Lindh Foundation President André Azoulay, has been structured in a inclusive and innovative logic « that can make life difficult for those who want to build cultures against each other« . Therefore it rejects preconceptions, often put forward in recent years on behalf of an alleged clash of cultures, which undermine human, economic and socio-cultural relationship between both shores of the Mediterranean. The report notes that there is indeed in the Mediterranean a sense of belonging, common cultural attitudes and expectations of a common Mediterranean project. He stressed the importance of cities, youth and religion in the intercultural debate. However, the report notes that misconceptions and stereotypes persist despite a mutual interest. Finally, the media will appear both as a vehicle for dialogue but also and unfortunately, for stereotypes.

It certainly demonstrates a more detailed understanding of obstacles to overcome to improve intercultural relations and mutual understanding and to develop a joint project based on shared values. The recommendations, far from being a list of good intentions, should now attract the interest of politicians on both sides of the Mediterranean when the Union for the Mediterranean Project makes no progress.

Is the Anna Lindh report the socio-cultural tool that can give new impetus to the UfM? One can only hope that it is the beginning of a positive spiral towards greater mutual understanding, a more open and frank dialogue which could lead to enhanced cooperation beneficial to both shores of the Mediterranean. However, many obstacles remain. In the first place is the Israeli-Palestinian which stigmatizes himself much of the misconceptions and stereotypes, as also stressed in Brussels by Azoulay in a realistic way:  « There will be no Mediterranean until there is no Palestine ».

Geoffroy d’Aspremont