The two afternoon sessions, chaired by Dr. Vladimir Petrovsky, doctor of political sciences and member of the Academy of Military Sciences, continued the discussion with a focus on national approaches to multiculturalism in Europe and Eurasia.
Mrs. Zoya Krot, Regional Chair of the Belarus Peace Fund, described the role of the Fund, one of the largest government-related grassroots organizations in Belarus, in promoting interethnic harmony and social peace in that country rich with 140 different ethnic groups. The fund works with local NGOs, promotes patriotism, and keeps alive the memory of World War II’s enormous sacrifices (a great percentage of the population of Belarus was killed) through various commemorations and educational programs.
Dr. Michael Platzer, Director of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) in Vienna, introduced the integration policy of the Austrian government. He described a 20 point program for integration, from strengthening the participation in the education system, learning the German language, promoting employment for migrant women, to intercultural dialogue, sports activities, teaching integration skills, etc. He also described various NGO initiatives dealing with the cultural diversity in Austria.
Dr. Saifullo Safarov, Deputy Director of the Center for Strategic Research under the President of Tajikistan, spoke about the need for regional integration in Central Asia and the benefit Afghanistan would gain from it, as well as the whole region. But only through solving the problem of inter-ethnic relations could Afghanistan start solving other problems. A dialogue among ethnic groups should be initiated by qualified politicians in a neutral country with the support of the world community. “I think," he added, "that the Universal Peace Federation could play an essential role here.”
Mr. Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian Parliament member and a well-known actor, spoke about the project “two languages – one prayer” in Georgia for the sake of developing dialogue between Russia and Georgia. Even though diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia are now broken, he said, he was proud that the Russian government and the Russian president last year awarded representatives of Georgia with government medals. The time will come, he said, when we will find our way to love people of other nationalities. The world needs a strong Russia in order to feel secure.
Dr. Marcel de Haas, a war analyst and senior research associate at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in the Netherlands, reviewed in fluent Russian the opportunities for military cooperation between the EU and Russia and between NATO and Russia. He recommended that both sides should “consider the sensitivities of the other side and take each other seriously” and “cooperate from bottom to top,” encouraging student and military exchanges to promote trust.
Mrs. Olga Meshkova, Secretary of the NGO Council in Kondopoga, Russia, shared her experience in interethnic integration as a local government official. In 2006, her city experienced a week of ethnic riots that shook the nation, shedding light on the deficient status of migrants from the Caucasus in Russia. Working under the chair of the Legislative Assembly of the Karelian Republic, Mrs. Meshkova has played a key role in building conditions for interethnic harmony in her city in recent years.
Ambassador Nicolae Tau, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova, discussed the pluralistic nature of societies in Europe and the former communist world. He analyzed multiculturalism from the perspective of culture, religion, and democracy, emphasizing the need for objective scholarly approaches to majority and minority views. “In western democracies," he said, "it is easier to define the 'other' on a religious or cultural rather than ideological basis; in post-communist societies the dominant 'other' is still related to the previous experience of communist rule.”
Ambassador Robert Vandemeulebroucke, Honorary Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, concluded the day with a reflection on the current challenges of interethnic relations in Western Europe. He noted that last year’s terrorist act in Norway took place in one of the most progressive and integrated multicultural societies in Europe. He warned that terrorism is often caused by individuals under the influence of hate ideologies and that governments should not give in to public pressure to discriminate against minorities