Skip to main content
European Commission logo
European Website on Integration
05 April 2012

Handbook on Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe



At a time of financial and economic crisis in Europe and elsewhere, students may feel the stress of their parents coupled with rising economic and social insecurity. For many there is also a sense of powerlessness and of things  being ‘out of control’ – the financial markets seem more powerful than national governments, the welfare state seems at risk, many people wonder whether they will ever get a pension, others are unemployed. On top of these anxieties there is also a fear that ‘unwanted’ migration or minorities place additional strains on the system. Such anxieties are not new however.


Europe has experienced increasing tensions between national majorities and ethnic or religious minorities, more particularly with marginalised Muslim communities during the last decade. Such conflicts have included the violence in northern England between native British and Asian Muslim youth (2001); the civil unrest amongst France’s  disadvantaged youth of immigrant origin (2005); and the Danish cartoon crisis in the same year following the publication of pictures of the prophet Muhammad. Muslim communities have also come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the terrorist events in the United States (2001), Spain (2004) and Britain (2005), and there is growing scepticism amongst European governments with regard to the possible accession of Turkey into the EU, a country which is socio-culturally and religiously different from the present EU-27. Tensions are  also exemplified in local mosque building controversies in Italy, Greece, Germany or France in the minaret building controversy in Switzerland (2009) and the ban of the full veil (the burqa) in Belgium and France most recently implemented as of 2011.


During this first decade of the 21st  century, politicians and academics have been intensively debating the reasons underlying such tensions and what should be done to enhance societal cohesion in European societies. The question that is being posed (sometimes  in more and others in less politically correct terms) is: What kind of cultural diversity can be accommodated within liberal and secular democracies and how? A number of thinkers and politicians have advanced the claim that it is almost impossible to accommodate certain minority groups  - notably Muslims or  the Roma  - in European countries, asserting that  their cultural traditions and religious faith are incompatible with secular democratic governance. Others have argued that Muslims can be accommodated in the socio-political order of European societies provided they adhere to a set of civic values that lie at the heart of European democratic traditions and that reflect the secular nature of society and politics in Europe. At the turn of the decade, the summer 2011 massacre in Norway and the racially motivated killings in the city of Florence, Italy in December 2011 are a shocking indication of how desperately fearful some people are of social change.


This Handbook seeks to inform and educate youth, to help them understand diversity  and talk about it using a common set of terms.  It aims to give young people the tools to resolve dilemmas that they may face in their everyday lives and in the future.



Download the document...


Anna Triandafyllidou
Geographic area
EU Wide
Contributor type
Academics and experts
Original source
Posted by
Anne Friel
Author, Senior Integration Expert

Related content

World Mental Health Day conference

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, and following the finalisation of its new, comprehensive approach to mental health earlier
More content