Cordoba, 10 October 2007 Press release

Winkler: "Respect for human rights and tolerance are fundamental European values"


State Secretary Hans Winkler at the OSCE Conference on Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims

Cordoba, 10 October 2007 - "In times of unlimited communication, economic globalization, and high social mobility, coping with diversity is a daily necessity. Today, resolute commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the recognition of the dignity of all humans is the undisputed foundation of Europe. Despite all efforts, however, numerous acts of xenophobia and discrimination and of the underlying intolerance can be observed. Should we now draw the conclusion that we can simply lean back and accept this development?" asked State Secretary Hans Winkler at the Conference on Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims organised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"It is not possible to find an answer to all problems at once. Yet this does not mean that we should remain idle. Integration is based on mutuality. All those involved must make their contribution in this process. People from very different backgrounds should develop the feeling of belonging to our common society, they should be integrated, and develop a common identity", said Winkler.

"Some 20 million Muslims live in Europe. The overwhelming majority of them prove us that pluralism, democracy, human rights and the Islamic religion are compatible. We must not give in to the temptation to continue or strengthen stereotypes and prejudices, but must critically question their truthfulness and do away with these. Of course, this is often more difficult than simply continuing to make populist and xenophobic statements", emphasized the State Secretary.

Winkler believes that the main task of politicians and the civil society is to jointly remove the barriers that prevent Muslims from making their unreserved contribution. "We must learn to experience our differences in a positive manner, while respecting others at the same time. Cruel words and contemptuous gestures contribute significantly to building barriers based on prejudice. True courage lies in discussion and open dialogue," stressed Winkler.

The State Secretary also appealed to the great responsibility of the media. "Freedom of expression, the possibility of quick dissemination of information over the Internet, and respect for the culture and religion of others do not contradict each other. On the contrary, they complement each other. Unilateral, selective, oversimplified, and stereotype presentations can be considerable obstacles on the path toward better understanding and integration, since the media contribute significantly to the tonality of the debate and the creation of role models and ideas", said Winkler, who in this context expressly emphasized the importance of a media reporting in a responsible and professional manner.

Federal Ministry for
European and international Affairs
Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469