The European Union's theme years began in 1997 with the European Year against Racism and have provided focus around key issues in the equalities and diversity agenda that the EU has led on since the mid-nineties. The years have featured pan-European co-ordination on a range of events and conferences and have usually involved a large amount of participation from NGOs - the year against racism resulted in the creation of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).
While the initiative is funded and run by the European Union, 'intercultural' and 'interculturalism' are words that are moving up the policy practitioners jargon handbook and there are a number of projects that will try to define what these words mean and the approach and thinking that European cities should adopt to respond to its increasing cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity. These projects move the focus on national policies usually associated with existing and new migrant communities and ethnic minorities (immigration, integration) towards the micro-level of policy and service delivery which provide more flexibility and nuanced responses to different city contexts.
One of these projects is a joint project between the Council of Europe and the European Commission called 'Intercultural cities'. The Intercultural cities programme will study successful experiences in a range of cities in Europe and harness this experience to inform and shape structures, policies and practice in other cities through mentoring and good practice exchange. Following an open call the following cities have been shortlisted for selection: Berlin Neukölln (Germany), Craiova (Romania), Greenwhich (UK), Izhevsk (Russian Federation), Lyon (France), Lublin (Poland), Melitopol (Ukraine), Neuchâtel (Switzerland), Patras (Greece), Reggio Emilia (Italy), Stavropol (Russian Federation) and Subotica (Serbia).
Similar in name but research in focus, the UK based research outfit Comedia has recently completed a wide-ranging research project about 'The Intercultural City'. The project was launched in 2004 and one of its key outputs is a book by the same name. ''The Intercultural City - Planning for the diversity advantage'' features a number of in-depth case studies and helps define what we mean by 'Interculturalism' or 'Intercultural'.
I hope to follow and critically engage with these projects throughout the year on this blog.