Generating interethnic tolerance and neighbourhood integration in European urban spaces

Objectives and research questions

The increasing ethnic and religious diversity of the population in European cities has generated politically and ideologically controversial discussions about interethnic coexistence and the future of social cohesion. The issue of the integration of a heterogeneous immigrant population has become a priority for urban decision-makers and politicians in the European Union. Concrete encounters between different migrant groups and non-migrants mostly take place in the workplace and at the local level of the neighbourhood. The actual form that intercultural contacts and conflicts in urban settings take and their consequences for individual attitudes are still widely unknown.

The GEITONIES (“neighbourhood” in Greek) project was concerned with how interethnic interactions, in neighbourhoods in European cities might help towards the creation of a more tolerant, cohesive and integrated society. Research was conducted in Bilbao, Lisbon, Rotterdam, Thessaloniki, Vienna and Warsaw. The main questions looked at how interethnic contacts are determined by spatial micro-level units and how these contacts affect tolerant or intolerant individual attitudes towards members of other ethnic groups. This project aimed to address these issues from a relational perspective through the lens of place, assuming that in contemporary multi-ethnic European cities, spaces of intercultural communication and engagement are vital to promote tolerance, cohesion, participation and inclusion in society. 


The project addressed the somewhat contentious issue of the impact that the spatial context has upon social processes of integration. Some say that the social-ecological environment no longer carries any influence in times when modern information and communication technologies shape new and virtual spaces, while others continue to ascribe great significance to the physical location. Collecting data from six European cities, the project systematically investigated the embedding of segments of the population – with and without migrant background – in the social and spatial neighbourhood. The results clearly show the significance of physical space in enabling space for unplanned encounters and interactions and thus offers an unambiguous confirmation of the social-ecological assumptions regarding the importance of the spatial context.


Kohlbacher, Josef, Reeger, Ursula and Philipp Schnell, 2015. Place attachment and social ties – migrants and natives in three urban settings in Vienna. Population, Space and Place 21: 446-464.

Kohlbacher, Josef, Reeger, Ursula and Philipp Schnell, 2015. Network embeddedness of migrants: Exploring variations across three neighbourhoods in Vienna. In: Louise Ryan et. al. (eds.). Migrant Capital. Networks, Identities and Strategies. Palgrave McMillan: 188-206.

Kohlbacher, Josef, Reeger, Ursula und Philipp Schnell, 2013. Nachbarschaftliche Einbettung und Kontakte zwischen BewohnerInnen mit und ohne Migrationshintergrund in drei Wiener Wohngebieten. In: Julia Dahlvik, Christoph Reinprecht and Wiebke Sievers (Hgs.). Migration und Integration – wissenschaftliche Perspektiven aus Österreich. Wien, Vienna University Press: 217-238.

Kohlbacher, Josef, Reeger, Ursula and Philipp Schnell, 2013. Strong ties inside and outside the neighbourhood. An exploratory analysis of the spatial dimension of ego/alter relations in three urban settings in Vienna. Finisterra 94: 43-64.

Kohlbacher, Josef, Reeger, Ursula and Philipp Schnell, 2012. Neighbourhood embeddedness and social coexistence. Immigrants and natives in three urban settings in Vienna. ISR-Forschungsbericht 37. Wien: Verlag der ÖAW.

Kohlbacher, Josef, Reeger, Ursula and Philipp Schnell, 2012. Neighbourhood embeddedness in six European cities: Differences between types of neighbourhoods and immigrant background. Polish Sociological Review 4(180): 523-544.


  • MMag. DDr. Josef Kohlbacher
  • Mag. Dr. Ursula Reeger
  • Dr. Philipp Schnell


  • Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa (FLUL), Geographisches Institut, Lissabon, Portugal, Maria Lucinda Fonseca (project lead)

  • IMES, Universität Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Niederlande, Flip Lindo

  • International Migrations Research Unit, Universität  Deusto, Bilbao, Spanien, Maria Luisa Setien

  • Regional Development and Policy Research Unit (RDPRU), University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Griechenland, Lois Labrianidis

  • The Centre of Migration Research, Universität Warschau, Warschau, Polen, Agata Gorny


May 2008 – April 2011


European Union, 7th Framework Programme