Looking forward to the future: Europe's societies are undergoing change.

Author:Winkler, Beate

At the end of my nine years as Director of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia--now the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights--I would like to share my experience in addressing racial discrimination. I want to focus on eight areas of needs and opportunities, which remain largely unexplored and which. I believe, need to be tackled more thoroughly in political and public debates. I am deeply convinced that, together, we can find forward-looking solutions that will better enable our changing societies to face the future.

We need a change in attitudes, from a climate of fear to a climate of hope. Some 80 million people belonging to ethnic, cultural or religious minorities live in the European Union (EU) today, representing around 16 per cent of the population--and the numbers are increasing. In the coming years, economic and demographic developments will create an even greater demand for immigration. The European Commission estimates that by 2030 the working population of the EU will decline drastically, falling by 20 million. In many cities, 30 to 40 per cent of children have an immigrant background; in some, it is as high as 60 to 70 per cent. The future of our society is in their hands--they need a future to look forward to. Studies show that successful societies are those characterized by the three Ts: talent, technology and tolerance. We need to realize that countries with a clear, positive attitude to immigration are more likely to attain their potential.

We must place greater emphasis on the positive elements of immigration and make these advantages clear. This requires new ways of thinking, especially on the part of politicians and the media. A clear stance has to be adopted by politicians on the topic of immigration, pointing out opportunities while not concealing possible problems. The value of immigration should be emphasized in political manifestos and resolutions, action plans and party programmes. The scientific community should formulate and analyze pro-immigration arguments for public debate.

We must improve our ability to deal with our emotions, projections and prejudices--in particular fear, envy and hate. Fears and prejudices have a profound impact on the coexistence of immigrants, minorities and local populations. According to a Eurobarometer survey, 80 per cent of Europeans have had no negative experiences with minorities in their daily lives. Nevertheless, more than half have serious reservations against a multicultural society. Prejudice is often strongest in areas with a small proportion of minorities. In Germany, for example, Berlin-Brandenburg has an immigrant population of 2 per cent, but prejudice is higher than in Frankfurt, where the...

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