Senén Florensa

Director General of the European Institute of the Mediterranean

As a contribution to the history of Mediterranean countries and to greater dialogue and interculturality, the IEMed presents the dossier “Ramon Llull, the Beginning of Dialogue”, which is an important source for knowledge and debate. The study is the result of the different commemorative events held on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Ramon Llull’s stay in Bougie (1307), the current Algerian Bejaia. These events have complemented the bibliographic exhibition “Raimundus, christianus arabicus. Ramon Llull and the meeting between cultures” which, for the first time, has brought together manuscripts and printed material from the main Catalan, Majorcan and Algerian libraries, with the aim of publicising this legacy internationally. 

During 2007, Algiers, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Bejaia and Perpignan were the meeting points of government institutions, local associations and academics from the two shores. In this issue of Quaderns de la Mediterrània we offer contributions by different specialists on the Catalan-Majorcan philosopher, the science and thought he studied and developed and the difficulties for dialogue in medieval times. Some of these contributions are also a reflection on current affairs from the perspective of the Lullian figure. 

Ramon Llull was one of the first intercultural figures who, through their work, offer us some guidelines for thought and action that are still applicable in the 21st century. A self-made polyglot capable of expressing himself and writing in the languages of culture in Europe and the Mediterranean, Latin and Arabic, he also used Catalan as a language for both literary creation and scientific transmission, and he was a true pioneer in medieval Europe. Although his objective was missionary, he did not believe in convincing by force, in an era very inclined to violence. His action sought to convince and persuade through reason which, used in the controversies or disputations, was a very powerful tool for maintaining his points of view. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to affirm that he was a pioneer not only of the dialogue of civilisations but also of the Euro-Mediterranean process because he quite frequently visited several countries of the North and the South in a period when travel was not free from danger. His interest was to present convincing scientific elements in the debates (disputations) between the wise men, whether in Paris, in Pisa, in Tunis or in Bougie. Some elements of these debates, as we mentioned, continue to be applicable today especially in the framework of inter-university relations, a paradigm of dialogue between cultures in the Mediterranean. The quality education systems and the learning linked to social and economic needs are very current challenges, and the future of dialogue involves a suitable approach and evolution for these challenges. 

In the same spirit, the existence of a Euro-Mediterranean project defined in the 1995 Barcelona Conference and ratified ten years later has contributed to creating a powerful culture of cooperation and dialogue between the European Union and its Mediterranean partners. The Barcelona Process, despite all the difficulties it has had to confront, is the most efficient instrument of action for achieving peace and democracy throughout the area. The current situation, marked by a series of conflicts with the common denominator of an apparent tension between the West and the Arab world, demands initiatives that explore dialogue and mutual knowledge in depth in the countries on the two shores.