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The Citizens are Speaking

IAS Hosts EU International Conference

The second and final stage of the EU-sponsored Europe for Citizens programme came to a close on the 13th and 14th of May, with the hosting of “The Citizens are Speaking” international conference in Ljubljana.

The aim of the conference, which was organised by the Institute for African Studies, was to engage EU citizens in a debate on the contentious issue of immigration, to discuss the challenges faced by Third-Country Nationals (TCNs) in Europe regarding migration and integration, and to create a platform for sharing best practices on the topic.

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The conference, held at the International Centre for Promotion of Enterprises in Ljubljana, brought together representatives from government, NGOs, the education sector, refugees, asylum seekers, students, volunteers and people with a migrant background.

The panels and workshops held within the context of the conference addressed xenophobia and racism, the integration, funding and fundamental human rights of TCNs, protection of minority groups, the rights of EU citizens and the role of media education for integration. Refugees and asylum seekers took an active part in the workshops, sharing their experiences and tribulations.

Addressing the conference were several distinguished key speakers, including Michael Privot (European Network Against Racism), Zamila Bunglawala (UK Cabinet Office), Franci Jazbec (Odnos Society), Marina Uzelac (Slovene Philanthropy), Albin Keuc (Slovenian Global Platform - SLOGA), Max Zimani (Skuhna), Mbemba Jabbi (Jabbi Group), Eyachew Tefera (Institute for African Studies), Hedwig Bvumburah (Cross Culture International Foundation), Bojan Hajdinjak (Cene Štupar Adult Education Centre),  Miomir Rajčević (Media Education Centre) and administrators from Livada Elementary School.

The outcomes of the conference - notes given by speakers, panellists and expert groups, and the conclusions of the workshops – will be included in the project’s framework and will be published together with the refugee’s and migrants’ narratives in a handbook that will be channelled to selected stakeholders.

World Refugee Day

Context of the Conference

Of late, Europe and the EU in particular have been featuring in the media due to the common policy changes being implemented in response to the migration crisis. At a time when the EU’s smart economic growth vision and strategy are being challenged by an ageing population, shrinking workforce and consequent labour and skills shortages, and when global financial crises, austerity measures and unemployment (particularly of the youth) are on the rise, integration seems to have been shelved to the sidelines.

In the past, the EU invested large sums to facilitate sound and functional integration policies. The EU Common Basic Principles for Integration - the cornerstone of integration policy at EU level - relies on strong political support from all Member States by implementing political and legal developments at local level.

But within the context of the current economic crisis, the polarity between Member States, a general lack of consensus on integration policies and the rift between the EU as a policymaker and individual Member States have resulted in a call to rearticulate the next stage of EU integration, including TCNs. Even though a great deal has been accomplished both in policy and legislation terms, EU integration policies have been formulated and implemented in a quasi-binding manner.

Recent Eurostat reports show that roughly 33 million EU residents were born outside of the community and that more than 19 million EU residents hold non-EU citizenship. Thus, there is a need to step up the implementation of integration in practice and fully recognise the potential of TCNs and migrants in general to build a competitive and sustainable economy while better coping with increasingly diverse and multicultural societies. Migrants make an active contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of European societies. Successful and sustainable integration in the host countries is therefore key to maximising their talent and creating opportunities.

World Refugee Day

About the Project

The Citizens are Speaking project is funded by the EU’s Europe for Citizens programme. It addresses the disparities in the EU’s integration policy, including growing levels in xenophobia and the promotion of opportunities for intercultural engagement and volunteering at EU level.

The project is led by Cross Cultural International Foundation and is being implemented by a consortium of nine NGO project partners from nine EU member states – Malta, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Italy. The participants are from different backgrounds and include educators, religious leaders, students, professionals, academics, politicians, minority groups and people from all walks of life. The outcomes of the project will be channelled to policy makers, migrant lobby groups, MEPs, and national politicians from the participating Member States.

About the Author

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Hana Alhady

Hana Alhady is a Project Co-ordinator at the Institute for African Studies and an invaluable member of our team.

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