Contrary to the notion of the clash of civilisations, the peoples concerned can work together towards a globalisation that does not strive for uniformity. The European Union is seeking to make its voice heard in the international forum, while the Arab world remains a strategic crossroads between three continents. Harmonious Euro-Arab relations could thus represent a step in humanity’s long march towards world peace.
There has been no shortage of attempts at rapprochement over the last quarter of a century, whether in the political arena in the shape of the Euro-Arab Dialogue, or the economic arena with the Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona in 1995. These have also been associated with calls for collaboration in the fields of culture and education. A preliminary measure of educational cooperation was recently introduced, in October 2002, with the opening up of the Tempus Program to the countries of the Maghreb and the Near East. Thus various bridges have been built across the Mediterranean, but the one we wish to make use of is that relating to education. The reason for this is that the younger generations may be the ones who will foster new cultures, attitudes and forms of solidarity.
Europe and the Arab world are over-inclined to emphasise their differences, overlooking their points of convergence: the pre-eminence of spiritual values over material values; the search for meaning in events and phenomena: the sense of history or destiny, the blossoming of philosophy, theology and science; the importance attributed to language in these lands where writing and the ‘religions of the Book’ were born; common roots in Egyptian and Greco-Roman antiquity; respect for a secular culture - that of the ‘Ancient World’ - which feeds their vision of the future; a need for expansion which has led them to civilise, teach, convert and often conquer other peoples; and finally, having put the era of colonisation behind them, an immense desire to live in peace within the human family.
This entire network of relations in time and space, as well as current problems which face our two communities, have motivated us to go beyond the confines of our parallel monologues and lay the foundations for constructive dialogue. We believe that culture is a privileged forum for communication between humans, a heritage which enables us to get to know and value one another in all our diversity, beyond the scope of political or philosophical differences. Gibraltar, a geographical symbol of the meeting of the two worlds, seems to us to be a suitable name for this project.