MINELRES: EP Socialist Group: The Minority Agenda - "Countering Populism Key in Intercultural Dialogue

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Fri Dec 12 20:10:21 2008

Original sender: Gabriela Langada <gabriela.langada@europarl.europa.eu>

Gabriela Langada



Socialists in the European Parliament today hosted a conference on the
rise of populism and its impact on minorities, the plight of Roma people
in Europe and models of integration in Europe. 

To conclude a series of events for the "European Year of Intercultural
Dialogue", the Group focused on the cultural dimension of minority
policies in Europe.

Said Group Leader Martin Schulz: "This conference expresses the great
importance we attach to the fight against all forms of political
extremism.  We are very concerned about growing populism and an
increasing lack of respect for minorities".

According to Knut Vollebeck, OSCE High Commissioner on National
Minorities and keynote speaker of the today conference, "the countries
of Central and Eastern Europe have in the last two decades gone through
a democratic and socio-economic transition that is without precedent.
Latent problems related to that process surfaced after EU accession,
culminating in expressions of extreme nationalism, the rise of populist
parties and the reappearance of unresolved questions concerning

Said Group Vice-president Hannes Swoboda, who moderated the panel "The
rise of populism-consequences for national minorities": "Populism today
claims to speak for the majority-against political elites as well as
against different kinds of minorities, ethnic, religious or migrant
minorities. Populism today expresses a much too simplistic understanding
of democracy".

Frans Timmermanns, Dutch Europe Minister, and Gyorgy Konrad, former
Hungarian dissident, stressed that "any strategy comes down to education
and information".

"We can see the correlation between the lack of higher education and
populism. Better educated Europeans are better able to resist populist
simplifications", they affirmed.

Jan Marinus Wiersma, Socialist Group Vice-president, who chaired the
panel "Roma in Europe" said: "The situation of Roma communities is a
test case for the strength and effectiveness of the EU's values and
policies. For this reason, our Group has again taken the initiative to
put Roma issues higher on the European political agenda, this time with
the full involvement of our colleagues from the new member states".

"A European Roma strategy should encourage and support national
governments and hold them to account, should closely involve and target
local and regional authorities", M. Wiersma

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