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The Mediterranean: Cultural Identity and Prospects

The Mediterranean: Cultural Identity and Prospects for Intercultural Dialogue

By Neila Akrimi


"Is there a Mediterranean culture?" There is no such thing as a single Mediterranean culture. There are several cultures in the bosom of the one and only Mediterranean culture, with some similarities and some differences between them. They are only rarely joined, and they are never the same. They owe their similarities to the sea between them and the coming together of the nations, forms and inspirations on the coasts of this sea. The differences between them come from their different backgrounds, histories and affinities. Neither the similarities nor the differences are constant and absolute. Sometimes the former prevail, and at other times the latter. The rest is mythology.”

                Predrag Matvejevic'


Mediterranean Cultural Identity

The Mediterranean cultural identity is understood primarily as an awareness of diversity and a search for intercultural dialogue. The key words to designate such identity are 'heritage' and 'mediation' . A better prospect perhaps would be the creation of a living civilization rather than the constant invocation of heritage.

In this situation, cultural diversity becomes the key resource to initiate change. And change presupposes communication. However, the type of integration imposed upon the Mediterranean countries and cultures makes the Mediterranean subservient to the more developed European Union and wipes out the existing cultural differences. For this reason, a reinterpretation of the Mediterranean as a region is an absolute necessity, as is also a diversification at a different level than at present.

Thus inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue in the Mediterranean is needed to alleviate the conflicts between particularisms opposed to openness, communication and cooperation. The states have the key role in combating nationalism and religious hatred ('religious nationalism') and in stimulating democracy and civil society.


Euro-Mediterranean Cultural Programmes: Which Policy for Cooperation and Dialogue?  

The Euro-Mediterranean cultural programmes: which policy for cooperation and dialogue? The Barcelona Declaration, the Euromed civil forum, and a number of specialized programmes of cooperation in fields such as theatre, education, and others, such programmes function largely thanks to the efforts of the partners and the support of different foundations.  And the last feature of this cooperation remains “Anna Lind Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the dialogue between cultures”. In fact the 1995 Barcelona Declaration states the need, in chapter III, to develop a dialogue of cultures and civilisations within the framework of the Mediterranean societies. The Action Plan adopted at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Ministers in Valencia, 22-23 April 2002 includes a mandate for the setting up of a Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for a dialogue of cultures and civilisations. Later The Euromed Ministerial Meeting in Naples 9 Barcelona VI) decided to set it up.

The question is whether this new structure will respond to the need of an efficient cultural dialogue in the Mediterranean? How and to what extent is it able to fulfil the task of bridging the two regional cleavages between rich and poor and between the West and Islam thus urgent and long overdue in the Mediterranean? Will it overcome the obstacle so far weakening the structure of the intercultural dialogue process? As a matter of fact,  it has been argued that the European Union treats the different foundation involved in the process in a bureaucratic manner, which only helps to marginalize them. Only occasionally does it provide some funding, usually after exhausting negotiations. Many Mediterranean countries and organizations are expressly excluded from any cooperation and communication. The question is whether  the European Union is willing to take into consideration this criticism and if the answer is yes, which path will it undertake in order to offer a better basis for a successful cultural dialogue in the Mediterranean i.e. a better platform for   the " Anna Lindh foundation ".

Having these provisos in mind, there is no doubt that the creation of the " Anna Lindh foundation "  is the expression of the serious commitment of the EU to establish an efficient space of dialogue between cultures in the Mediterranean. Such initiative can only be saluted and encouraged.