How can one contribute towards identifying, evaluating, developing
and exchanging experience and good practice in intercultural
dialogue on European scale?
The French motto for the movement of social solidarity
in the 1990s, "touche pas a mon pot...", a response
to Nationalists' racism, i.e. is still prevailing in the European
citizens' collective consciousness in regard to an open and
tolerant society, based on inter-cultural dialectics.
European cultural pluralism embraces all of Europe's values
and comprises a fundamental component of the European political
and social model. This component is further reinforced and
enriched by cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue.
The cultural identity being structured in the European Union
cannot replace the vast variety of particular cultural identities,
whether they are national and therefore the majority ones
or they are minority ones. These are identities the EU has
no exogenous relation with, since they are closely associated
with the historical memory of its citizens, the social sensitivity
and the political culture of Europe, i.e. that of open and
The entity of the European Union implies the consolidation
of a single but not singular European identity and expression,
in the sense of being united through diversity and differences.
Such a value may emerge only through a broad participation
of citizens in the European Civil Society, which presupposes
that the establishment of one's cultural identity is a non-compromised
right. Thus, such a composite cultural identity should be
associated with the democratic participation of citizens both
at the level of a macroscopic vision of a common European
future and at the level of their daily "here and now".
Besides, it becomes obvious that it is necessary to recognise
a European cultural identity and a single European cultural
area, that will be established on the respect for the various
national traditions and identities of Member States as well
as the recognition and consolidation of minority cultural
elements - both old and new - and the contrasts these generate,
while also providing the necessary unifying features in the
daily lives of European citizens.
Millions of people from South and Eastern Europe, Asia and
Africa have migrated to Europe in recent years, thus creating
a de facto multi-cultural society.
However, beyond immigrants and refugees, there are other social
groups, such as the Rom, who comprise a cultural minority
group with a long history in European countries; they still
encounter discrimination, prejudice and racist attitudes,
due to cultural differences, stereotypes and preconceptions.
To be more specific, in Greece, there are 200.000 Greek citizens
of Rom origin; their overwhelming majority live under conditions
of extreme social exclusion.
The bad living conditions of Rom are blatantly visible; their
vocations are more or less familiar, so much so that they
are considered quaint due to prevailing stereotypes, which
easily lead to the inference that the terms and manner of
their living is their own choice, based on their particular
cultural traditions, i.e. that they are features of their
cultural identity, which, in turn, determines their social
identity and behaviour.
What is less known, nevertheless, is how all these are translated
into the daily life of a Rom, how and to what extent it dictates
the terms of their transactions with mechanisms such as schools,
health and welfare services, administrational agencies what
do they signify for the opportunities and possibilities open
to them, what do they indicate for the terms of their survival.
The prevailing collective view on Rom’ living conditions is
that they consciously choose their way of life, i.e. the stereotype
of the nomad, cut off from social structures (and, therefore,
This collective stereotype has formed the "cause - effect"
ideological basis for distorted and exaggerated attitudes
that have gone as far as hidden or open racist views on the
Rom' anti-social nature, upon which the Rom choose to live
in miserable conditions. Such views have prevailed in most
cases and have created collective alibis for a society that
does nothing (in the best of cases) or exhibits violent behaviour
towards whole Rom communities and groups.
The collective social view claims that Rom are by nature marginal
characters, deviant, uneducated and, generally speaking, unable
to adapt to life models mainstream societies choose. Let us
remember here that such superficially simplistic views have
historically created the theoretical background for racial
and social discrimination, which led society to well-known
shameful acts and extreme atrocities (besides, recent exciting
discoveries in the field of genetics, following the decodifying
of human DNA, have irrevocably excluded any theories of racial
differences from human thought and reflection).
Rom, as a group, experience universal exclusion, being caused
and resulting from their particularity and their being different.
However, at the same time, they want and seek social inclusion.
They seem to be overcoming the phobias and reluctance generated
by their long-standing exclusion and they are articulating
their assertive discourse, seeking their physical and social
establishment, their acceptance by local societies, their
peaceful and co-operative co-existence within them, their
integration, not in the dominant mainstream culture, but definitely
in the context of the Democratic achievements of Greek society,
so as to safeguard their uncompromised social rights.
The right to a different social identity and cultural expression
is non-negotiable. In this light, any inclusion policy should
not be a policy of cultural assimilation in the all-levelling
What information and communication initiatives could
contribute towards involving all European Union residents,
and particularly young people, in the promotion of intercultural
dialogue in day to day life and familiarising them with it?
Social exclusion and cultural divides are born in
the environment of the cell of "social biology",
i.e. the "neighbourhood". At the neighbourhood level,
and especially in "neighbourhoods in crisis", in quarters
of urban exclusion, characterised by poverty, unemployment,
lack of infrastructure, absence of social amenities and all
their consequences, i.e. being cut off from local social institutions
and deviant behaviour, a vicious circle is created and maintained:
it is the vicious circle of social and cultural discrimination.
This vicious circle of social exclusion might be reproduced,
thus, creating a continuously diminishing balance level ultimately
resulting in social annihilation.
In the 1990s, the prevailing motto of European scientific
and social thought, "Think globally, act locally",
probably expressed in the most accurate manner possible the
new dimension of social action. The combination of the need
to have a holistic view leading to a theoretical basis of
social planning with an imperative demand for local action
through measures for social support and action is contained
in this impressively concise phrase.
This is why any actions and initiatives undertaken should
have the neighbourhood as their unit of reference. It is in
the neighbourhoods where citizens of Rom origin live that
initiatives should be undertaken for the mutual recognition
and acceptance of every citizen. Every action must aim at
the creation of small permanent institutions to promote the
Rom Cultural Identity and the expression, highlighting and
functional inclusion of the Roma in Local Society scale Cultural
structures and activities.
Such actions should aim at positively discriminating in favour
of the Rom cultural identity, as a feature of the social identity
of Rom citizens, through modern terms and means of expression,
following communication and exchanges with the rest of the
social body. These actions should create a CROSSROADS of multiple
encounters, of culture, of social participation, of dialogue
and reflection, ultimately aiming at mutual acceptance and
understanding of citizens at the neighbourhood and Local Society
CROSSROADS will form a stable point of Cultural encounter
and communication, of participation in joint cultural activities
of Rom citizens at the level of the municipality, which may
develop into a permanent cultural institution and a model
for the dissemination of best practices into other areas where
there are Roma Communities.
This will be a modular programme of events, of dialogue, of
criticism and self-criticism, with an emphasis on the participation
of Rom themselves in the institutional expressions of Local
Society, at all its levels, where culture is produced directly
or indirectly, where cultural products are generated through
CULTURAL EXPRESSION AND MODERN CULTURAL CREATIVITY: ART WORKSHOPS
1. ROM NOTES: ROM MUSIC MOTIFS AND MODERN MUSIC FORMS
2. MOVEMENT - DANCE - EXPRESSION
3. PHOTOGRAPHING DAILY LIFE
4. PROJECTING THE PAST INTO THE FUTURE: PROMOTION OF POLITICAL
TRADITION AND HISTORY THROUGH MODERN TECHNOLOGY
Such actions concern organising biannual Art Workshops on
the thematic units presented above, through the Cultural Centre
of the Municipality, with the participation of citizens of
(mainly) Rom origin. The Workshops aim at highlighting and
renewing features of the Rom culture through modern expressive
forms and schemes, beyond stereotype perceptions.
DIALOGUE AND THINKING WORKSHOPS: CRITICISM AND SELF-CRITICISM
1. CULTURAL IDENTITY - SOCIAL IDENTITY AND SOCIAL
2. INTERPRETING THE PAST - PLANNING THE FUTURE: POSITIVE AND
NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF ROM CULTURAL TRADITION
3. CULTURAL DIFFERENCE: AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT - A SOCIAL OBLIGATION
4. THE CULTURAL DIMENSION AND THE ROM WAY OF LIFE: INTERACTION
AND MUTUAL DEFINITION
These activities concern dialogue and debate workshops involving
Rom citizens through their collective expression groups (Panhellenic
Federation of Greek Roma, several Associations, etc) and representatives
of social institutions, mainly from Local Government, the
educational system, Public Administration services as well
as Civil Society bodies, through voluntary Non-Governmental
Organisations. These workshops aim at reflecting on and developing
a common way of thinking on the thematic units mentioned above,
in order to explore, through criticism and self-criticism,
the interaction of the cultural particularity of the Rom and
their social exclusion.
THE ROMANY LANGUAGE : ORAL TRADITION - COMMUNICATION - LINGUISTIC
ITINERARIES OF A DISAPPEARING LANGUAGE
1. THE ROMANI LANGUAGE: RESEARCH AND TEACHING AT THE HIGHER
2. ORAL TRADITION: ROM TALES - MYTHS - POETRY - MOURNING SONGS
- RELIGIOUS HYMNS
The Romani language and oral Rom tradition comprises a multivalent
linguistic and cultural treasure, which needs research, recording
and dictionary compiling so that it may be salvaged as a linguistic
achievement that managed to survive and evolve through time
and history. In the context of the project, a linguistic workshop
will be held, with the participation and co-operation of competent
University Departments. The main aim of the workshop will
be to collect and record data concerning linguistic issues
and oral tradition as well as their influence on the cultural
and social cohesion of Rom and the spread of their linguistic
expression under modern social terms.
CULTURAL CROSSROADS: AN INSTITUTION OF ENCOUNTER - COMMUNICATION
1. FESTIVAL - SPECIAL EVENTS
2. EVENTS BY CULTURAL CENTRES: ROM ARTISTIC GROUPS - MIXED
3. FILMS UNDER THE STARS: ROM CINEMA
This action concerns an annual Festival cycle comprising events
that will promote the cultural works and results of the workshops
within Local Society. Through Rom and mixed artistic groups
of the Cultural Centre, cultural creation/works produced will
be presented to the general public along with the positive
message of artistic creation, thus establishing cultural communication
bonds and highlighting the aspect of cultural diversity.
THE ROLE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN THE PROMOTION OF THE ROM CULTURAL
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ENCOUNTERS CIVIL SOCIETY: LOCAL
GOVERNMENT AND NGOs IN SEARCH OF A RELATIONSHIP
Local government is a critical field of encountering and unification
of Local Society. The development of initiatives by Municipal
services and, in particular, by the cultural, sports, and
educational agencies, so that they may include Rom children
in their structures, promotes equality, favours lifting mutual
prejudice, tones down social strife and, thus, has a positive
effect on eradicating phenomena of social exclusion and discriminating
lines. Such an initiative requires planning and specific goals,
demands the training of members of various agencies staff,
so that they do not reproduce distortions and new divides.
This action also includes seeking out a new relationship between
Local Government, its agencies and NGOs. So far, experience
has shown that Local Government and NGOs have found themselves
in opposite camps, which leads to tension. Local Authorities
have been wary and suspicious vis-a-vis the intentions of
NGOs, while NGOs have been aggressive and critical of Local
Authorities and their choices.
THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN THE CULTURAL ENCOURAGEMENT OF YOUNG
SCHOOL CULTURE AND EQUAL PARTICIPATION - PROMOTING
ROM CULTURAL WEALTH THROUGH SCHOOL ARTISTIC ACTIVITIES
The critical role of school education in the shaping of prerequisite
conditions for a child's social inclusion is well-recognised.
It is within the school environment that contrasts and discriminating
behaviour patterns are produced - intentionally or unintentionally
- and they stigmatise children subject to them; this way terms
of isolation are created that determine the children's failure
at school and finalise their social exclusion.
For these reasons, a Programme of school cultural activities
will be created to incorporate Rom cultural tradition in schools.
This will help promote the children's cultural identity within
and outside school, to increase the children’s and their parents'
self-esteem concerning their cultural identity and to reinforce,
in general, the acceptance of cultural particularities within
the critical school environment.
SPORTS AT THE SERVICE OF SOCIAL INCLUSION OF THE YOUNG
This process is more effective and functional when
actions address the young, who are usually more receptive
to social initiatives and more ready to overcome social exclusion
stereotypes. Local institutions of social and collective activation,
such as Sports, may, under certain conditions, help the prospect
of social inclusion of Rom citizens, and, especially, the
The aim is to attract young Rom to local Municipal Services
(which are responsible for implementing the Programme), to
develop a sense of "belonging" in the form of collective
expression, and, therefore, to deal with the phenomena of
"individual solutions", which, in cases of socially excluded
individuals, might lead to deviant behavior, which might ultimately
ruin the person involved.
The participation of young Rom in such sport schemes aims
at bonding the young, at reinforcing their self-esteem and
indirectly bringing them into contact with other group and
team schemes, so that they can be involved in them in the
long run through their own smooth intentional social inclusion
Linking the Youth Sports Programme - in areas where there
are Rom communities - with the general strategy for social
inclusion at the local level is another significant aim.
The Programme must be part of such planning and operate as
a means of communication of the young with Municipal Agencies
for the establishment of a permanent channel so that the young
and their families may approach Local Authorities.
What specific European scale initiatives likely to reach,
directly or indirectly, as many people in the European Union
as possible- could contribute towards promoting intercultural
Communication activities aiming at producing material
to promote positive messages in the context of a comprehensive
policy for the social inclusion of Rom citizens.
Aims of such initiatives are:
a) to create prerequisite conditions so as to reverse social
exclusion phenomena concerning Rom experiencing marginal exclusion
b) to promote a model of communication between Rom and local
societies that will ease and not exacerbate social inequalities;
c) to turn the social exclusion problem into an issue of concern
for the whole of the local society rather than a problem that
concerns only socially excluded groups;
d) to strengthen the positive image of Rom communities in
the eyes of agencies and local societies through "positive
In order to structure the concept of a "positive message",
both conceptually and at the level of specific actions, it
is necessary to define in a global manner the complexity and
depth of this social issue, its particular aspects as well
as the subjective perception of the very persons experiencing
On this basis, the elements constituting such a conceptual
context are as follows:
The specific aspects of Roma social exclusion, as defined
by recent surveys and approaches, are reflected in the Rom'
inadequate access to institutions and social rights, especially
in the specific “thematic fields" selected:
Civil and Municipal status,
Establishment - Residence - Homes,
Health and Social Welfare,
Employment and Social Security
These 5 references are defined as the 5 aspects of social
exclusion and should be perceived as a single system of intertwined
factors, rather than as a set of isolated factors.
The 5 dimensions of social exclusion cannot be examined separately
and in isolation from each other, since they comprise a single
system of exclusion, whereupon each factor feeds on the other.
Without the right to residence, there is no right to be institutionally
recognised by the Greek State (Civil and Municipal status);
without this status, there are no derived fundamental rights,
e.g. to education. Without education (of all levels), there
cannot be any way into the labour market, without employment
there is no income, therefore, survival is not secured, which
inevitably leads to deviant behaviour, deeper marginalisation
and "fencing out" and deepening of social exclusion.