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The Contribution of Multicultural Talents for Belgian and European Economies

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The  secretary-general of EPN, opened the event by thanking the audience for  their interest and participation and mentioned 4 areas that EPN is  active on; to contribute to the professionals` vocational and career  development processes, to provide opportunities and platforms for  professionals to come together with their colleagues, thus to increase  networking and friendship possibilities, to contribute to the personal  and social empowerment of professionals and lastly to raise awareness  among professionals on issues like active citizenship, democratic  participation and civic organization.

He said that they organized various programs, events and projects in order to realize these objectives. He continued: “Professionals are actually the brains of their society with their level of education, knowledge and the capacity for innovation and creativity which are vital in today`s European knowledge-based societies. Thus, they need to actively participate in the social, economic, cultural and political life and be happy together with the people`s happiness and be sad as well with the grievances.”
He explained the main objective of this panel with the following words: “On the one hand, Europe has been going through a very serious economic crisis and is to face a wide shortage of work force in the near future while on the other hand, it hosts millions of multicultural talents who are quite young and dynamic, and are equipped with at least two cultures and languages. With this panel discussion, we want to stress on that these people represent a very important potential for the European economic and social future. We are now organizing it with the participation of mainly Turkish-backgrounded people, yet there will be the second series of this panel with the participation of people from all corners in Belgium. As a third step, we plan to undertake a similar event in the European Parliament in order to put this crucial theme on the European agenda.”
Dr Adem Kumcu began his speech by emphasizing the outcome that this panel would deliver. Having said that the profile of the participants of this evening perfectly reflect the process that has been achieved after 50 years of immigration history, he warned that this achievement shouldn’t be seen as sufficient. He continued: “The quality that is not known is not the quality in fact. You must work hard to be known and recognized, and the best possible place to do this is surely Brussels. Europe, too, should know you better as multicultural talents. There is a clear shift towards intangible assets than tangible ones in today`s world economy and it is important to highlight the contributions that those different perspective-holders can produce during this transformation process.” Kumcu underlined that multiculturalism was a significant asset and those who have this background could play an important role at their institutions and companies thanks to different perspectives and ideas that they come up with for the success of their institutions. He added that this was already supported by scientific datas.
Kumcu continued his speech as follows: “The migrant-origin people have taken serious steps in entrepreneurship and business sector in Europe. Yet, the same achievement haven`t been reached as far as professional life is concerned. Although there are reasons to blame migrants themselves for this failure, the exclusive and discriminatory regulations and policies that both governments and companies are pursuing are playing an important role in this picture. Statistically, if you look at the percentage of entrepreneurs who have been registered to the Brussels chamber of commerce last year you will see that the half of them are Turkish-origin entrepreneurs. However, if you look at the governing body of this institution you cannot see any Turks there. This is an extremely important point. As far as there aren`t people from Turkish community or other communities in the governance of such institutions we cannot talk about a healthy and sustainable economic and social development. If you look at the USA, you will see that the economy is largely dependent on the contributions from migrant communities. Here is the biggest difference between Europe and the USA. While USA sees these multicultural talents as an opportunity for its economic and social life, Europe sees them rather as a problem.”
After Mr Kumcu finished his speech, Mr Emir Kir, the minister of Brussels-region and French-community, took the floor. He thanked to EPN for inviting him to the program and giving this unique opportunity to address to such a distinguished audience. Having mentioned about the immigration process of Turkish people to Belgium and Europe as an introductory statements, he said that the first generation had to bear very difficult life conditions and had a very low level of literacy. “The fact that they didn’t know the language and the culture of the hosting country worsened their situation. Even though there have been significant improvements on these issues together with the second and third generations, we see that immigration is still an ongoing process and the notion of first generation is still alive”, the minister continued. In this context, he insisted that the integration policies that don`t take into account the heterogenic structure of migrant communities encompassing several generations would certainly fail.
Mr Kir continued to say that one of the biggest obstacles against integration efforts and success concerning the migrant communities is the problem of illiteracy. Referring to the research results that he himself let it conducted, he spoke like this: “Our people who are still coming here in Belgium through marriage or other reasons can also be deemed as first generation as they don`t know the language and the culture of hosting countries. At this point, education is quite important. I believe that we can come over these challenges only through insisting on education and that`s why we have to send our kids to the kinder-gardens from early years both for language and socialization reasons. According to the statistics, a child who has followed pre-elementary school begins the primary school with 3000 words while that who hasn’t done starts with 400 words and it becomes so difficult to follow up this gap later on. If we want to be more present in professional life we need to handle this issue of education from very beginning and be so sensitive as families.”
The minister stated that migrants had often been subjected to discrimination in our societies and even there are some political parties publicly supporting and promoting it. “In Belgium, a new law has recently been passed making marriages with third-country nationals much more difficult. We need to tackle with these, too. We need to be very active in societal life, and I believe that civil society organizations are the best solutions for these problems. NGOs like European Professional Network in this respect is quite important for me. I was also pleased to hear that your organization is not only serving to Turkish people but all professionals living in Belgium and is trying to build bridges among different cultures as one of the objectives. This is really worth appreciating.”
Well-known architect and the founder and the president of Vizzion-Europe, Mr Sefik Birkiye came to the chair to do his speech after Mr Kir. Mr Birkiye gave invaluable advices to the young professionals by telling his own life stories with successes as well as faults. He began his speech by describing his own world view that largely parallels with the one of renowned Czech thinker named Kafka. He continued as follows: “What is important in the professional career is surely to be able to leave long-lasting pieces of work in this temporary world. For me, there is no one infinite truth. Look at the things that we advocate 10 years ago! We probably don`t approve most of them anymore. So, it is important not to engage yourself in one reality but to approach everything through critical eyes. One day I was interviewed by someone who asked me what is behind my success story and I replied him saying `the right decisions I took`. He questioned further by saying well, what is the key to taking right decisions and I replied by saying `experience`. He insisted to learn more and further asked what is behind my experiences and I replied by saying `the wrong decisions I took`. Thus, taking wrong decisions is not something bad as they teach you the realities of life and make you more prepared for the future challenges.”
Mr Birkiye stated that what is distinguishing in his architectural works is basically the assertion of local culture and architectural motives and to combine them successfully with modernity. He said he was quite unhappy that we are going towards global homogeneous architectural structures where local elements have almost no place: “Today, locality and local motives are highly neglected in the name of sustainable economic growth and green environments. Lots of glass-covered buildings are being made accordingly, but I claim that these will not be sustainable. After 50 years we will say, ok this is out of fashion and let`s find something else. In fact, if you succeed to combine modern designs with local culture and elements you may have a real sustainable architectural culture and can build up various distinct residential places and cities that people love to see.”
The last speaker of the evening was Ms. Fatma Pehlivan who particularly mentioned about the significant contributions that Turkish entrepreneurs add to the European economy by providing some statistics: “Today, there are almost 140.000 Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe and they provide an employment for about 600.000 people. In Germany for example, the added-value of Turkish people to the German economy is around 40 billion euros. These contributions in Europe is so huge that I claim that if these people don`t exist in Europe now, Europe cannot survive economically and go bankrupt. We are expected to be in conscious of this potential and act with this power in mind. Besides, we have to come together with civil society organizations to make our voices better heard.”
In the Q&A session, Mr Birkiye emphasized on `enrichment through contact with other cultures` in response to one question. He reminded that Ottoman state had become culturally richer with the other cultures that it contacted with. Thus, he insisted that engaging with other cultures never means to forget your own culture. It does nothing but to improve yourself and help you gain a broader perspective. In response to another question, Mr Kumcu stated that the biggest problem with the migrants was the problem of none-institutionalization.
The panel ended with giving special gifts to the panelists and taking photos later followed by a reception.
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