European citizens and those in countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean have a growing appetite for mutual knowledge, but face the reality of an alarming rise of xenophobic and sectarian trends impacting on social cohesion across the region.
This is one of the primary findings a new report launched today by the Alexandria-based Anna Lindh Foundation, based on the very first comparative polling carried out by Gallup Europe with 13 member states of the Union for the Mediterranean, including: Albania; Belgium; Denmark; Egypt; Germany; Ireland; Italy; Jordan; Morocco; Poland; Spain; Tunisia; and Turkey.
According to the Poll in fact around 80% of Europeans and 65% of Southern and Eastern Mediterranean people are interested to know more about the political, economic, religious and cultural affairs on the other shore of the Mediterranean. In addition, while a majority (82%) consider diversity a source of prosperity, 47% fear that it can have a negative impact on social stability.
“This new edition of the Anna Lindh Report, the first since the historic Arab uprisings, is an invaluable tool as we continue to adapt our strategies and programmes to take account of the new regional realities,” stated the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhouhood Policy, Stefan Füle, adding that, “A key finding for political leaders on both sides of the Mediterranean is that their citizens are looking to work together and find new, alternative ways to participate in their societies.”
André Azoulay, President of the Anna Lindh Foundation, underlined: “The findings must now be the basis for reinforcing on a greater scale intercultural and civil society links between Mediterranean countries. Top-down solutions will not work, as the survey reveals, and any union across the Mediterranean must be built on the cultural aspirational convergences between the region’s citizens.”
Key findings of ‘the Anna Lindh Report on Intercultural Trends and Social Change’ are:
A growing appetite to know more about the Mediterranean other as a basis for cooperation in the region - Europeans’s interest to know more about the political, economic, religious and cultural affairs grew since 2009 to around 80% and from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean the avarage rate of interest reached around 65%.
Religious beliefs dropped on the scale of people’s priorities since 2009. The first priority is the family (56%), followed by the respect for other cultures (39.5%) and in third position religious beliefs (33.5%)
Cultural diversity is seen as a source for prosperity of societies (82%) but at the same time half of the people consider that it could negatively impact on social stability (47%)
Youth across the region optimistic about the future, especially on the southern and eastern Mediterranean shore, with 65% believing their life will be better in the next 5 years. Also a majority of people, if they had the opportunity, would start a new life in their country.
Both in Europe and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean people believe their their individual action is the most effective tool to improve social problems (18.5%, followed by 13.5% who believe traditional political parties can be the means and 11.5% who believe in the efficacy of social movements).
A positive and shared image of the Mediterranean emerges with around 80% of people associating it to hospitality, common cultural heritage, a specific way of life and food and civic participation.