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Meetings Calendar 2006
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Press Releases

19.05.2006

Prokop opens "dialogue of cultures and religions"

 

Minister of the Interior Liese Prokop opened an international conference on the "Dialogue of Cultures and Religions" at the Hofburg in Vienna on 19 May. "Through this conference we hope to continue the dialogue between people of different backgrounds, which already has a strong tradition in this country. However, within the framework of the EU Presidency, we also intend to make a contribution to implementing the EU strategy against radicalisation and recruiting", Prokop said.

The minister stressed the importance of taking the dialogue of cultures and religions even more seriously within Europe and beyond. "We have to create and continue to improve conditions, actually allowing people coming here to integrate. However we must also take unambiguous collective action against intolerance and violence."

Prokop said that this policy should not be used to shirk responsibility. The Ministry of the Interior is therefore actively involved in the dialogue of cultures and religions: "As a result we have made the "Dialogue of Cultures and Religions" a focal point of our EU Presidency. And secondly we have clearly improved the conditions for integration." The Minister of the Interior referred, by way of example, to German integration courses and additional literacy courses, language promotion for nursery school children and the new Act on Citizenship.

Prokop pointed out that "Integration constitutes enrichment rather than assimilation. We are not talking about giving up personal identity, but rather about the prospect for a common approach."

However, both sides had to work towards a "European consensus on values": involving religious freedom/freedom of expression - allowing for mutual sensibilities; freedom to make decisions about our own lives and thereby respect the freedom of others; equality between men and women; separation of religion and state; recognition of fundamental democratic rights and the rule of law, and an unambiguous rejection and condemnation of primitive behaviour, such as `honour killings´."

"We also intend to gain the most exact knowledge possible of problems/perspectives in Austria: this is why we promoted a study of perspectives and challenges for the integration of Muslim citizens in Austria. This was drawn up, with the support of the Security Academy, through a research platform at the Austrian Integration Fund, directed by Dr Alexander Janda, and with the involvement of international experts. A significant contribution was made by Dr Mathias Rohe, professor at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg ", stated the Minister.

Three aspects in particular had become clear when working through the extensive study: first, on the part of citizens of the Muslim faith, just as in the case of people born here, a clear majority were in favour of a common integration policy based on dialogue and understanding. However a significant minority on both sides keep their distance from such an open approach to integration. "This is the challenge - and this message is directed at both sides", the Minister said.

Second, the comprehensive survey shows "that the situation in Austria is better than in other European states in many areas: the special feature here of Islam being fully recognized as a religious community, the Austrian tradition of dialogue and our model of integration are essential explanations for this", Prokop stated.

"Although Austria is not an island of salvation in the area of integration, it remains a country with a number of model characteristics as far as I am concerned ", said Prokop.

In the first place the study also shows that further measures are necessary: on the European level, there is a need to promote an additional European Integration Fund through the integration programmes in Member States. Prokop intends to create a "platform for integration" in Austria from the "Council for Asylum and Migration Issues", which is intended to deal with long-term subject matters and projects in the area of integration.

"Integration is not automatic, but relies on contributions from all participants: as far as new citizens are concerned this requires a willingness to recognize fundamental European values and actively participate in our social life, while for people who were born here this relates to an openness towards anything new and support and togetherness along the way," the Minister of the Interior confirmed.

 

Date: 20.05.2006