Cultural and educational policy is the member states responsibility, but not only: Also the community has the mission to support culture (article 151 Treaty on European Union). This paper will explore the efforts made by the member states to meet the challenges arising within our socities: safeguarding European culture, affirming our common identity whilst recognizing our differences, promoting the study of our languages, history, civilization: the best antidots to backsliding into nationalism and intolerance. Culture is defined as behaviour peculiar to Homo sapiens, together with material objects used as an integral part of this behaviour. Thus, culture includes languages, ideas, beliefs, customs, codes, institution, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, and ceremonies, among other elements ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 2000). The European Union consists of 15 Member States at the moment and negotiates with 13 new accession candidates.
Europes population therefore will increase to 550 million people. The high number of Member States shows the varieties and differences as well as cultural problems that go along with this process. Although Europe shares a common history each country has developed its own cultural identity over centuries. The ongoing integration will show if Europe converges on the cultural as well as on the economic and political level. The European Union tries to improve the better understanding and acceptance of cultural diversities by several programs and initiatives towards a cultural convergence.
The paper will focus on 1)the European Cultural Convention and 2) the Culture 2000 program which are part of this process. And will also show some 3) public opinions concerning the cultural diversity in Europe. 1) The European Cultural Convention was signed in 1954 and is the framework for the Council of Europes activity in a) education, b) culture, c) cultural heritage. Programs developed within the framework of the Convention are directed not only towards the Member States, but also towards all those actively involved, in partnership with the Council of Europe, in the development of education and culture. a) Education lays a foundation stone for the formation of opinions. Therefore it is very important to teach young people how to establish greater mutual understanding and confidence.
An urgent need is to strengthen programs to eliminate prejudice in the teaching of history by emphasizing positive mutual influences by countries, religions and ideas in the historical development of Europe. Young people should learn how to form their own opinion by looking at every site of an subject. The Council has set up projects that show how to prepare them for study, training, work, mobility, leisure and everyday living in a multicultural Europe. A network of national agencies to promote school links and exchanges was established.
It is based on the concept of cultural exchange, and linguistic considerations play a minor role. Participants can study in another country for three up to nine month and stay with a host family. To keep a vital role that individual citizens have to play in combating extremism and assuring democratic stability and social cohesion a project called Education for Democratic Citizenship came to life. It seeks to find ways of inspiring idividuals to take up this challenge in the context of rapidly evolving political structures. The Convention brings also the legal framework for the fair recognition of qualifications, degrees or diplomas in the European Union up to date.
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