Living together in 21st-century Europe- 22nd June


The challenging economic environment in which we live contributes to racism and xenophobia. As cuts in areas such as welfare and health set in and the choice of jobs narrows, indigenous populations can seek to scapegoat immigrants. Governments must show vigilant leadership to avoid that.

Europe is transparently a multicultural society and assimilation is not a policy option that the Council of Europe could approve. Active integration or interculturalism with respect for diversity is the way forward. The debate cannot pass without our hearing the assertion that newcomers or immigrants have a responsibility to respect the culture of their new country. That should be achieved through our education system, the welfare system and the naturalisation process. An example of injudicious behaviour that fuels fear is radical Islam. That minority group can greatly contribute to racial tensions.

Our challenge is to implement the reports, which urge the appointment of a high-level representative to work with national governments to encourage good practice. They urge the Committee of Ministers to launch public education campaigns. I propose that those initiatives be taken. All of us in this Parliamentary Assembly have a duty to stand up for what is right. To quote Edmund Burke, the great English philosopher, for evil to prosper, all that is required is that good men and women do nothing.

If we are to achieve respectful living together, education is key. A particular challenge is that particular ethnic groups discourage young women from participation in education after primary level. That situation must be reversed. I am very proud that in my constituency there is a town that is a model of best practice when it comes to integration and mutual respect. Ballyjamesduff is a small town in east Cavan of about 2 000 persons. About one in five of its citizens is from eastern or southern Europe. Through a soccer league involving all areas and nationalities, a samba festival and reserved places on the community council, it has achieved a remarkable level of interculturalism, mutual respect and harmony. I congratulate my colleague, Councillor Paddy Smith, on the community leadership that he has given. What I most want to draw attention to in that example is the use of sport as a vehicle for integration.

In conclusion, I again urge members to give practical effect to the reports at national level. May I take this opportunity to congratulate the Turkish Presidency on their initiative, and the authors of the two reports?

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website