EU: Putting culture at the heart of EU international relations


Cultural diplomacy at the core of EU’s relationship

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The Strategy aims at encouraging cultural cooperation between the EU and its partner countries and promoting a global order based on peace, the rule of law, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values. Culture has to be part and parcel of EU foreign policy. A powerful tool to build bridges between people, notably the young, and reinforce mutual understanding. It can also be an engine for economic and social development. As EU’s common challenges, culture can help all, stand together, to fight radicalisation, and build an alliance of civilisations against those trying to divide. Cultural diplomacy must be at the core of EU’s relationship with today’s world. Culture is the hidden gem of EU’s foreign policy. It helps to promote dialogue and mutual understanding. Culture is crucial in building long-term relationships with countries across the whole world: it has a great role to play in making the EU a stronger global actor.

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A new strategy

Brussels, 8 June 2016 – The ‘Strategy for international cultural relations’ presented by the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy aims at encouraging cultural cooperation between the EU and its partner countries and promoting a global order based on peace, the rule of law, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values.

EU High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “Culture has to be part and parcel of our foreign policy. Culture is a powerful tool to build bridges between people, notably the young, and reinforce mutual understanding. It can also be an engine for economic and social development. As we face common challenges, culture can help all of us, in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, stand together to fight radicalisation and build an alliance of civilisations against those trying to divide us. This is why cultural diplomacy must be at the core of our relationship with today’s world.” [Speech]

European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “Culture is the hidden gem of our foreign policy. It helps to promote dialogue and mutual understanding. Culture is therefore crucial in building long-term relationships with countries across the whole world: it has a great role to play in making the EU a stronger global actor.”

European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, welcomed the Strategy, in line with the recently adopted 2030 Agenda acknowledging global citizenship, cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue as overarching principles of sustainable development and for the EU’s neighbourhood and enlargement policies.

Culture can play an important role in the EU’s foreign policy. Cultural cooperation counters stereotypes and prejudice by nurturing dialogue, open-mindedness, dignity and mutual respect. Inter-cultural dialogue can help prevent conflicts and foster reconciliation within and between countries. Culture can help respond to global challenges such as the integration of refugees, countering violent radicalisation and the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. Culture can also be a tool to deliver important social and economic benefits both within and outside the EU.

Today’s Communication proposes a strategic framework for deeper and more effective international cultural relations as well as a new model for cooperation with Member States, national cultural institutes, private and public operators from the EU and its partner countries, increasing opportunities, creating synergies and maximising socio-economic benefits.

Culture is becoming more and more a vector for economic growth, not only in its traditional forms, but particularly through cultural and creative industries, SMEs and tourism. This strengthens the opinion that synergies with other fields are crucial and that public and private sector and civil society should be more and more involved.

Culture plays an important role also at municipal level. Engaging citizens, state actors and cultural operators alike, is a major resource for strengthening municipalities and communities and for developing market opportunities.

As such, this Communication is in line with the ninth priority outlined by European Commission President Juncker in his 2014 Political Guidelines and reflecting the ambition of the EU’s forthcoming Global Strategy being prepared by the High Representative. The Commission has also announced that it will propose to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to organise a European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.

Background

Culture in EU external relations is one of the three pillars of the European Agenda for Culture (2007). Developing a strategic approach in this field has been a priority of the Council’s Work Plans for Culture since 2011. A major step forward was made with the European Parliament’s Preparatory Action “Culture in EU external relations” (2013-14), which highlighted the considerable potential for culture in Europe’s external relations and underlined that the European Union and its Member States stand to gain a great deal by better streamlining their cultural diplomacy.

In the cultural and creative sectors, the EU has already funded many projects such as creative hubs’ networks or the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Cultures+ programme and the programmes to support cultural governance and promote intercultural dialogue. The Creative Europe programme is also open to neighbourhood and enlargement countries. EU delegations regularly organise cultural diplomacy activities and EU development cooperation has long included culture and heritage in its actions (for example, to restore the Timbuktu manuscripts in Mali). The EU’s support to the Anna Lindh Foundation in the South Mediterranean serves as another good example of how culture will influence the EU’s foreign policy. The Young Arab Voices programme (now enlarged to the EuroMediterranean region), for instance, deepens the dialogue between young leaders and civil society representatives and develop counter-narratives to extremism and violent radicalisation. Another example is EU assistance to protect cultural heritage in Syria, implemented by UNESCO, supporting local stakeholders in monitoring the state of the heritage and in preserving the heritage and countering illicit trafficking. In the Eastern Partnership (EaP), the EaP Culture Programme is supporting the cultural and creative sectors’ contribution to sustainable humanitarian, social and economic development. At the same time, the “Community-Led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns” project seeks to stimulate social and economic development by enhancing cultural heritage in nine historic towns in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine

Horizon 2020 also supports research on cultural diplomacy and activities on cultural heritage through multinational, interdisciplinary projects. Future programmes are under preparation to support partner countries in different regions; namely fostering cultural and creative industries and promoting intercultural dialogue.

To help the EU implement the strategy and create synergies among all EU stakeholders (EU delegations, national cultural institutes and foundations, private and public enterprises, civil society), a Cultural Diplomacy Platform was set up in February 2016, focusing on strategic countries. Operated by a consortium of Member States’ Cultural Institutes and other partners, the Platform will deliver policy advice, facilitate networking, carry out activities with cultural stakeholders and develop training programmes for cultural leadership.

Questions and answers

Why has the Commission adopted an EU Strategy for international cultural relations?

In a fast-changing, inter-connected world, cultural relations offer a unique opportunity for improving relations with EU partner countries. Culture is a valuable resource to tackle many of the challenges Europe and the world are currently facing – such as the integration of refugees and migrants, countering violent radicalisation and the protection of cultural heritage.

The potential of the cultural and creative sectors and the economic benefits of cultural exchanges also need to be tapped into to contribute to inclusive growth and job creation in the EU and its partner countries.

Several parties – Member States, the European Parliament and civil society – have called on the High Representative and the European Commission to develop a strategic vision to advance international cultural relations. The call to draw up such a strategy is also underpinned by the Preparatory Action on Culture in EU External Relations, which highlighted the need to implement a new model of cultural cooperation, based on co-operation and peer-to-peer learning.

The global context makes the call for the development of an EU strategy only stronger. Increased cultural cooperation and direct contacts and exchanges between people will contribute to making the EU a stronger global actor, in line with the ninth priority outlined by President Jean-Claude Juncker, reflecting the ambition of the EU’s forthcoming Global Strategy.

What are the main objectives of the new strategy?

The EU strategy for international cultural relations will focus on three main objectives:

* Supporting culture as an engine for social and economic development (p.7)

The economic benefits of cultural exchanges are too often overlooked. Global trade in creative products has more than doubled between 2004 and 2013, despite the global recession. Culture is a central element in the new economy driven by creativity, innovation, digital dimension and access to knowledge. Cultural and creative industries represent around 3% of global GDP and 30 million jobs. In the EU alone these industries account for more than 7 million jobs. In developing countries, UNESCO’s Culture for Development Indicators (CDIS) show that culture contributes 1.5% to 5.7% of GDP in low and middle-income countries.

The available data both in developing and developed countries indicate that the cultural sectors may account, depending on the country and scope, for 2% and 7% of GDP respectively, which is more than many other traditional industrial sectors.

The EU strategy for international cultural relations should therefore also become a strategy for inclusive growth and job creation.

* Promoting intercultural dialogue and the role of culture for peaceful inter-community relations (p.10)

Inter-cultural dialogue, including inter-religious dialogue, is a key tool in promoting the building of fair, peaceful and inclusive societies as well as the value of cultural diversity and respect for human rights. It establishes common ground and a favourable environment for further exchanges.

Inter-cultural dialogue will be promoted through cooperation between cultural operators; peace-building cultural activities; exchanges between young people, students, researchers, scientists and alumni; as well as through cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage.

* Reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage (p.11)

Cultural heritage is an important manifestation of cultural diversity that needs to be protected. Rehabilitating and promoting cultural heritage attracts tourism and boosts economic growth. There are many opportunities for joint action with partner countries to develop sustainable strategies for heritage protection through training, skills development and knowledge transfer.

The EU supports research and innovation for cultural heritage. The Commission will contribute to international efforts for the protection of cultural heritage sites and will consider a legislative proposal to regulate the import into the EU of cultural goods. It will also propose to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to organise a European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.

How will the strategy be implemented and what will the Member States’ role be?

The success of the new approach relies on the principle that all stakeholders join forces. Complementarity and synergies between all main players – governments from partner countries at all levels, local cultural organisations and civil society, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS), EU Member States, and their cultural institutes – are essential.

For the implementation of the Strategy for international cultural relations, the EU can count on its 139 Delegations and Offices operating around the world, which already carry out an enormous number of cultural activities in their host countries. The EU (delegations) will act as an enabler and encourage synergies and cooperation between national cultural institutes and foundations, and private and public enterprises worldwide.

It is therefore important to establish effective partnerships between all these bodies. That is why an EU Cultural Diplomacy Platform was set up in February 2016, focusing on strategic partners. Operated by a consortium of Member States’ Cultural Institutes and other partners, the Platform will advise the European Commission and the EEAS on external cultural policy, facilitate networking, carry out activities with cultural stakeholders and develop training programmes for cultural leadership.

Could you give concrete examples of projects to be carried out under the new Strategy?

A pilot project has just been launched to create a global platform (p.13) gathering networks of young cultural entrepreneurs from Europe and partner countries to facilitate exchanges between them. The Creative Europe programme, the main EU financial instrument for culture, is open to neighbourhood and enlargement countries, and the Commission encourages them to join.

The 11th EDF Intra-ACP programme (p.6&7) will support the contribution of cultural industries to the socio-economic development of ACP countries. Another initiative will be launched on intercultural dialogue including local authorities, funded under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI).

In the South Mediterranean, the EU will continue to support the Anna Lindh Foundation (p.11), including the second phase of the Young Arab Voices programme (now enlarged to the EuroMediterranean region) to deepen the dialogue between young leaders and civil society representatives and develop counter-narratives to extremism and violent radicalisation.

In the Eastern Partnership (EaP), the “EaP Culture Programme Phase II” is supporting the cultural and creative sectors’ contribution to sustainable humanitarian, social and economic development. At the same time, the “Community-Led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns” project seeks to stimulate social and economic development by enhancing cultural heritage in 9 historic towns in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

The new Strategy will allow the targeting of specific regions or countries with appropriate actions. For example, the EU Cultural Diplomacy Platform is now exploring possibilities of cultural cooperation with Iran, in particular in the field of cultural heritage. Other ideas are being explored, such as the opening of a House of European Culture in Tehran. Similar projects are being considered for Ukraine.

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