The Origin of Intercultural Dialogue Practice in European Union External Action
AbstractThis paper analyses the origin of the practice of ‘intercultural dialogue’ as a tool for European Union external action towards the Mediterranean. ICD is currently a relevant instrument in EU external relations. However, when it was first launched in 1995, in the policy initiative known as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership or the Barcelona Process, ICD was granted little effort by the partners involved. Many accounts from that period agree that this tool initially took a back seat if compared to other political-economic priorities in the EU agenda in this initiative. The paper aims to investigate the reasons for the initial neglect of this tool, which was considered by many to be a relevant innovation when it was launched, but that has actually become a relevant resource for EU external action only recently. Through analysis of EU policy documents of the period, the paper demonstrates that the EU had envisaged strategic use of ICD before 1995, in particular, in the hope of tackling key issues, such as mounting xenophobia in Europe and escalating Islamic fundamentalism in the Maghreb. It thus identifies a dual explanation for the limited and ineffective scope attributed to ICD in the first years of the Barcelona Process. On the one hand, in 1995 a number of Mediterranean partner countries were reluctant to lend much credit to the intercultural aspects of regional cooperation, and, on the other, the EU at that time had a growing but still restrained perception of urgency for the emerging issues that ICD was designed to address.
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