The EU’s strategy for international cultural relations five years on

October 22, 2021, 1:01 pm


Where are we at in the EU’s international cultural relations five years after the Joint Communication on the subject?

On 14 of October a joint meeting  took place between the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) and Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) regarding the developments after five years since the adoption of the Joint Communication “Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations”

The purpose of the strategic document, put forward by the then-High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, was the establishment of a strategic framework for deeper and more effective international cultural relations, as well as a new model for cooperation with Member States, national institutes for culture, private and public operators from the EU and its partner countries, to increase opportunities, create synergies and maximize socio-economic benefits. 

According to Oliver Rentschler, Director for Strategic Communication and Foresight at the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Joint Communication has contributed to the joint implementation by cultural institutions of programs which allow cultural actors along with public stakeholders to develop innovative ideas, concrete projects, finance cultural relations platforms and facilitate networks. 

However, as the CULT Committee Chair Sabine Verheyen (EPP, Germany) stated “Cultural exchange is also a tool to convey human rights, fundamental values, to transport an understanding and build up the ground for exchanges also in other political fields. Culture can foster independent thinking, dialogue and understanding if allowed to develop freely.” 

Many activities are put forward by Member States and questions arise on whether such national practices are being exchanged, or commonly approached. Additionally, Dace Melbarde (ECR, Latvia) addressed the commitment made by the Ministers of Culture of the G20  this summer to make culture central to international cooperation and made a point about the areas of collaboration between UNESCO and the EU, the development of expected performance indicators and the potential export capabilities of the culture and creative sectors and industries. 

In addition to that, as Salima Yenbou (Greens/EFA, France), who promoted this joint session, made it clear, Member States and EU Institutions should explore co-innovation practices in international cultural relations going beyond the already existing good practices about preservation of heritage, which has been the main focus so far, and steer the conversation also towards intangible cultural practices and forms. 

The discussion on the EU’s cultural relations has been in the spotlight these days also during the Siena Cultural Relations Forum, in Italy, on 18-20 October. The University of Siena and EUNIC, the EU National Institutes for Culture network, which recently joined Culture Action Europe, organised the third edition of its forum under the title “Looking back, moving forward. The future of the EU’s international cultural relations,” bringing together cultural relations policy makers and practitioners along with academics and researchers to explore and discover the gaps among theory, policy and practice of the EU’s international cultural relations and cultural diplomacy. Furthermore, according to MEP Verheyen “it has once again become apparent that cultural diplomacy can and should be an essential element in international relations.

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