JPR News archive
Monday 15 Jan 2007
Voices for the Res Publica
The Common Good in Europe
A pan-European project
jpr / Institute for Jewish Policy Research
Sponsored by the Ford Foundation
One of Europe’s most pressing problems today is a loss of a sense of the commonweal in our pluralist democracies. Religious and ethnic groups, whether majorities or minorities, are growing apart from each other. This is due to a combination of two factors: the weakening of the post-war ideal of reconciliation, integration and open borders, and the upsurge of xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and cultural intolerance.
As a result, feelings of shared belonging have been eroded and new types of tribalisms are emerging. The current multicultural and integrationist models of democratic life do not seem able to contain these tendencies.
To address these problems and the issues they raise, the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research has launched a pan-European project, ‘Voices for the Res Publica’, funded by the Ford Foundation and directed by Dr Diana Pinto. Pointedly using the Latin term for the ‘public good’, the project will cover six countries, bringing together independent critical voices from different religious, cultural, ethnic and secular backgrounds.
This carefully chosen group of opinion-formers and academics will meet in small national round tables designed to foster a more frank and in-depth exchange of views than the highly publicized inter-religious and intercultural dialogues or the official European-level meetings addressing issues of identity. Each round table will tackle the conflicts, underlying fears and deep defensive reflexes that exist in each country and within each minority or majority group: in other words, those factors which have led to a weakened common public space. Difficult questions will be broached in a context of mutual trust. They include questions linked to citizenship, the role and rights of silent majorities and vocal minorities, secular responses to collective religious demands, and a variety of specific controversies, such as public commemorations that focus on the historical suffering of a particular group. The round tables will also address the tensions between national cohesion and a ‘Europe without borders’, especially their impact in two areas: integration and the struggle against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.
The project will be carried out in a critical, independent and non-sectarian manner. It was conceived in a Jewish think tank which believes that the Jewish experiences of the last two decades cast a useful light on the above-mentioned questions. European societies and all groups within them must confront these issues together in the years ahead in order to restore a sense of common purpose.
The goal of the project is to work toward a res publica of newly reformulated, shared universal values. The round tables are conceived as the starting point of ongoing policy debates, and the participants as part of a functioning pan-European network. The analyses, ideas and policy proposals emerging from these meetings will be widely disseminated through the media and in other public fora, both at the national and European levels.
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