We are all a minority or a majority at the same time!
Mr Igor Kolman, Croatia
25.06.2014 Speaking on behalf of the ALDE group in a debate on "Integration of migrants in Europe: the need for a proactive, long-term and global policy (Doc. 13530)" and "Identities and diversity within intercultural societies (Doc. 13522)" Igor Kolman, ALDE Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, noted that "It is sad and worrying that we are discussing such issues under the dark clouds of rising xenophobic and intolerant political movements across large parts of Europe. Yet it makes us all even more aware of the need to change our practices further and faster, so that our children will not have to go through the tragic experiences that our forefathers had to go through, such as people being thrown into furnaces just because they were different." Full speech...
Mr Igor KOLMAN (Croatia) - I congratulate both rapporteurs on their work. It is sad and worrying that we are discussing such issues under the dark clouds of rising xenophobic and intolerant political movements across large parts of Europe. Yet it makes us all even more aware of the need to change our practices further and faster, so that our children will not have to go through the tragic experiences that our forefathers had to go through, such as people being thrown into furnaces just because they were different.
We need to give strong and honest support to a concept that the liberals have been talking about for a long time. We need individual freedom based on individual identity. We strongly believe that the individual identity of every single one of us is the foundation of our freedom. We also believe that making the mistake of perceiving the world around us through a bipolar concept of minority versus majority is very dangerous. There are no minorities or majorities; we are all a minority or a majority at the same time, though more often a minority than a majority. We live in a time of composite identities, which has erased all the strong differences between the two categories.
We therefore agree with and support the idea that openness and intercultural competence need to be taught from a very early age, in nurseries and kindergartens. If we do not start right away, we shall be too late. If we accept the reality that we live in a society where each individual has a specific identity that is at least a little different from everyone else's, we must be prepared to accept another dangerous prospect as well, which is that, if we are not properly equipped to accept differences, we will end up hating and fearing everyone else, because everyone else is different. That is a very gloomy prospect.
That case applies especially to the integration of migrants. Integration does not mean assimilation or erasing differences; it means taking differences on board and learning from each other. As for identities and diversity, integration is a two-way street. That means that we need to change constantly, in communication with others, to achieve the equilibrium in which we can live together with mutual understanding and respect.
What is particularly worrying in the report on the integration of migrants is the problem of integration that continues through the generations. Children of immigrants, often born in the country in which they live, might have less contact with its society than their parents - unemployment, poor education, lack of perspective - and that creates ghettoes, in the head and in our cities. Ghettoes are a breeding ground for fear and mistrust, and they are the opposite of integration; ghettoes are disintegration in its purest form. Again, therefore, we call for Council of Europe member states to invest in education, especially language skills, from a very early age.
In conclusion, both integration and respect of individual identities constitute the essence of achieving personal freedom. In unfortunate times, when from the highest political places we hear ever louder voices questioning our freedoms and suggesting other concepts that we thought had been left safely in the past, we need to get involved even more.
Added on 26-06-2014
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