Setting the network and prioritizing global partners

The leaning toward a decentralized model of CD is also reflected in the attempt to map, reach out and activate networks beyond the policymaking realm, as explained in the Preparatory Action for Culture (2014) and the Strategy on International Cultural Relations (2015). In this context, a ‘cultural strategy’ entails the ability to design and steer collaborative policy networks, underpinned by alignment of priorities, capabilities and resources (Lord, 2010). “Speaking

The EU’s international cultural strategy 49 culture strategically” requires not just the ability of establishing virtuous networks of public and private actors, but also the ability of bridging policy areas that straddle the domestic/intemational distinction. ‘Cultural affairs’ are segmented into different sectors of policy portfolios, including research, education, economic development and innovation, media and multimedia, heritage and so forth. “Speaking culture” thus requires the ability to create unity out of an increasingly fragmented and decentralized policymaking environment.

While the EU offers its MSs the possibility of drawing on extra funds, visibility and resources, it also comes with an extra layer of institutional complexity. As specified by article 151 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the EU contributes, encourages and, “if necessary” supports and supplements cooperation between the member states in areas of “dissemination of the culture and history of the European people”; “conservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage of European significance”; “non-commercial cultural exchanges”; and “artistic and literary creation, including the audiovisual sector.” Moreover, cultural policy is primarily a responsibility of the member states, whereas the Treaties do not pursue “harmonization of the laws and regulations of the MSs” (see Art. 151, European Commission, 2007: 4).

Within the Commission, cultural policies fall under the remit of DG AEC (Education and Culture),7 but also intersect with the work of other ‘domestic’ DGs, such as DG Research & Innovation and DG CONNECT (Communications Networks and Technology). Informal “Culture inter-Service” and “Culture and Development inter-service” groups were set up to coordinate interested ‘external action’ DGs, e.g. DG DEVCO, DG Near, the Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI) and the European External Action Service (EEAS). In this framework, the EEAS supports and complements the work of interested DGs “on a leaming-by-doing basis,” in order to “encourage a strategic approach” (interviews with several members of the institutions, April, 2017). The Delegations are mostly used as a ‘platform’ to encourage cooperation between the MSs. Hence, at the current stage, cooperation on the ground still does not rely on an institutionalized structure and is mostly entrusted to the “good will” and the “initiative” of European actors on the ground (Several interviews, April 2017).

Within the Council of Ministers, ‘Culture in External Relations' matters have been mostly discussed within the Cultural Affairs Committee, even though they were also discussed in the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in the context of the Global Strategy (Interview, DG AEC, 2017). In order to bridge the gap between the two Council configurations and enhance the strategic coherence across the policy spectrum, the establishment of thematic “Friends of the Presidency Groups” was envisaged in May 2017. The Friend of the Presidency foimat consists of Council groups mandated by the COREPER to explore specific transversal questions (e.g. Culture and Migration; Culture and Security, etc.) with the task of ensuring coordination among the various Council layers and configurations; preparing conclusions to be discussed in the framework of the General Affairs Council; and sharing optimal practices and conducting pilot projects in third party states (Interview, DG AEC, 2017).

Hence, while MSs still have a Ann grip on their international cultural activities, their cooperation is facilitated by a number of coordination mechanisms, within and outside the institutional framework. Coordination measures with MSs further include enhanced cooperation on the ground, the establishment of common “European Cultural Houses,” the organization of joint EU cultural dimension and the joint focus on strategic partners (European Commission 2018: 7).

The MS and EU institutions - both in Brussels and on the ground - further coordinate their international cultural activities through the EUNIC, “the network of European national institutes of culture and national bodies engaged in cultural and related activities beyond their national borders.”8 On the ground, the EUNIC operates on the basis of “cluster strategies,” which draws on the establishment of a structured collaboration among EU delegations and at least three EUNIC members. Clusters thus aim at acting as “ideal incubators for innovative initiatives” and to deploy “their enormous potential for the delivery of collaborative projects with a European integrated approach” by pooling together “resources human, financial, networks’’ and facilitating “the exchange of good practices among EUNIC members.”9

In order to develop the “EU Strategy,” the Parliament has approved a budget of €500,000 to sponsor a “Preparatory Action,” led by a consortium of Cis and organizations, including the British Council, the European Cultural Foundation, the Danish Cultural Institute, the Institut Français, the IfA (Institut fur Auslands-beziehungen), KEA European Affairs and BOZAR, (Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels) - under the leadership of the Goethe Institute (European Union, 2014: 24). Reportedly, the group of experts also included members of both the MFA and the Ministries of Culture of all MSs (Interview, DG AEC, April, 2017).

Not surprisingly, the Preparatory Action highlighted not just a wide difference in available resources (with the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain having the most extensive networks), bitt also a decrease in public budgets for virtually all EU’s MSs (EU 2014: 34-35). Within the limits imposed by budget cuts, the MSs pursue a variety of strategies in parallel and engage in a range of activities to these ends.

Interestingly, the document advocated for flexible “structures and modus operandi of the EU institutions” so as “to adjust to a multi-layered and shared system of governance” (European Union, 2014: 115) and streamline participation of a variety of private and public stakeholders from both the EU and third-party states. A decentered model for the EU’s external cultural action is widely reflected both in the general rationale and in the methodology underpinning the Preparatory Action. Planning was conducted with an eye to giving voice to a select group of beholders of the EU’s cultural projection, who were actively encouraged to express their vision of an “enhanced cooperation with the EU.”10 From this general starting point, the aim of the Preparatory Action (European Union, 2014) was precisely one of mapping “a wide variety of stakeholders from inside and outside the EU” and launching a “consultation process with key stakeholders in the third party states designed to analyze the manner in which they

The EU’s international cultural strategy 51 cany out culture in external relations” (European Union, 2014: 24). This preliminary action involved the 28 member states, 16 neighboring countries and the ten Strategic Partners countries.11

Domestically, the 2016 EU global strategy has acknowledged the importance of unifying the domestic and international part of the cultur al equation. Recently, the DG AEC in the Commission have sponsored several Cultural Platforms for “cultural operators promoting emerging artists and stimulating a tnrly European programming of cultural and artistic work.”12 The modus operand! of the Platforms is to issue calls for proposals in order to finance creative industries and artists. Similarly, in 2016 the EU and the Goethe-Institute launched a two-year project financed with a €939,800 under the Public Diplomacy component of the 2015 Annual Action Programme of the Partnership Instrument that replicates such an idea with regard to culture for external relations.13

The domestic and international policy frameworks of the EU cultural policy share three important priorities: cultural diversity, cultural heritage, and support to Creative Industries (Cis). Attempts are made to operationally bridge domestic and international EU cultural initiatives, even though in terms of access and strategic designs these attempts are not always successful (Lisack, 2014). Instruments such as “Creative Europe” - e.g. European Network of Creative Hubs - contain provisions for the participation of neighboring countries and the inclusion of 30% activities in a third country. While the priorities of these two cultural policy components align, the “domestic European’7intemational nexus could be reinforced. At this stage, this preliminary observation seems corroborated by the 2014 EU Action Plan for Culture (2015-2018), in which the Priority D (Culture in External Relations and Mobility) refers almost exclusively to foreign policy goals. Conversely, sectors such as sustainable cultural tourism, cinema and the promotion of access to culture via digital means are not yet systematically given an international dimension.

In terms of prioritizing global partners, both the preparatory actions and the ensuing country reports reflected a mix of regional and global ambitions. On the one hand, priority was given to Southern and Eastern neighboring countries, such as Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Moldova, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. On the other hand, the EU designed specific strategies targeting its so-called strategic partners (Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the USA). The first country report was devoted to China.

In parallel, the overall designs of both the Preparatory Action and the country reports reflect the ambition of supporting decentered cooperation, whereas the role of the institutions is seen as facilitating the autonomous initiatives of private stakeholders (Interview, member of DG AEC). Indeed, while the Preparatory Action reviews in general terms the MSs’ strategies and priorities in cultural diplomatic practices, it does not specify their priorities in the 26 reviewed countries. In that sense, the strategy done by the Preparatory Action was precisely one of mapping “the need for the EU” as expressed by a plethora of public and private stakeholders in the selected thud-party states, rather than forging thestrategy around the MSs’ priorities and needs in these states (Interview with a member of DG AEC).

Although a foil examination of the country strategies cannot be presented here, the adopted methodology suggests two interesting facts. On the one hand, the Preparatory Action sought to activate a process of consultation that reached out not just to official institutional partners, but also to cultural operators and civil society. On the other hand, this process attempted to collectively set up the EU’s goals and objectives in given countries. This component of the EU’s modus operand! reveals that the general EU ‘Strategy’ will require to “be flexible and tailored to the different needs of third countries” (European Union, 2014: 133). This implies that different local cultural platforms need to be crafted in ways that resonate with third countries’ sets of priorities (see Table 3.1). The implementation of these guidelines will tell in due time whether the EU will streamline this strategy and what the financial implications will be.

At this stage, coordination mechanisms draw on “existing cooperation frameworks for thematic and geographic cooperation, along with dedicated financing instruments” (European Council, 2018: 14), a fact that also explains the different resources at the disposal of both the Delegations and the EU as a whole. This consideration reveals that available budgets do not necessarily match the ambitions of the EU’s cultural strategy since initiatives such as the Intercultural dialogue promoted by DG DEVCO draw on a total budget of €9,700,000 to finance projects worldwide.14

Table 3.1 Countries’ specific focus and suggested fields of intervention

Country Focus

Suggestedfields of intervention







Capacity building and heritage

Improving relations and capacity building

Human rights

Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR

Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR

Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR

Protection, promotion and enhancement of heritage across the government spectrum.

Enabling cultural professionals’ regular meeting and build up relations of mutual trust. Joint programs, research and exchanges in the field of education.

Improving human rights and democracy.

Promoting (1) an inventory of cultural operators and investors; (2) measures to increase cooperation between the Cis;

  • (3) cooperation between universities; and
  • (4) cooperation between cities and regions.

Agreement on the key elements of a comprehensive economic and trade agreement, but lack of specific funds.

Transfer of knowledge for the development of innovative products; access to markets in the EU; cooperation in the field of intangible cultural heritage and exchanges of contemporary, performing and visual arts. Enhancing awareness of the EU in China.







South Korea





Promoting mutual understanding

Capacity building

Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR

Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR ... Conflict?

Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR

Capacity building

Establishing a multilayered framework for


Capacity building

Establishing a multilayered framework for


Capacity building

Opening up the cultural markets; strengthening decentralized ICR approach

Economic interests (e.g. tourism) and opportunities; but also countering stereotypes on both sides.

Enhancing cooperation; establishing a webbased multi-lingual glossary/dictionary of cultural relations; experience-sharing among cultural managers and professionals; knowledge-transfer on taxation laws and bilateral film coproduction agreements.

Setting up exchange and residency programs; joint media campaigns; translating literary works; creating digital portals about exchange opportunities.

Official stance that “European values” within EU programs - e.g. peace building, human rights and Arab-Israeli dialogue - could contribute to divisions within Israeli society.

Co-production in the audio-visual and the performing arts; co-curation in the visual arts and design, artist residencies and intellectual exchange; schemes for the mobility of artists/performers; experience sharing in intercultural dialogue: expertise sharing in digital arts; a network of European/Asian media festivals.

Building capacities and enhancing skills in the cultural and educational sectors.

Facilitating co-production and co-curation and cooperation of cities; supporting small-scale activities; gathering data on cultural mobility flows.

Organizing open EU cultural initiatives merging funding for higher education and culture.

Renewing the Fondo Mi.xto de Cultura Mexico - Union Europea; easing exchanges; priority areas of cooperation: Cis and culture, and information technology and training programs in both fields.

Enhancing official cooperation; devolving fluids to conduct a mapping of Moldova’s CCIs.

Opening the European cultural market; increasing awareness of Moroccan cultural diversity. Providing support for intensified international cultural relations at the subnational level between local authorities based on more systematic public-private partnerships.


Table 3.1 Continued



Capacity building

Use culture as an instrument for improving relations

South Africa


Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR

Establishing a multilayered framework for intercultural relations

Ukraine Capacity building


Establishing a multilayered framework for ICR

Capacity building and support long-term projects.

Organizing joint EU-Russia events. Reaching out to regional-local governments. Enhancing EU-Russia cultural relations and promoting European culture internationally. Launching projects on shared heritage and establishing centres of excellence.

Supporting a mobility fund; stimulating co-production and co-curation; contributing to audience development.

Cultivating relations between twinned Tunisian and European cities; engaging in new social networks; intensifying training and transfer of knowledge between private/ public cultural professionals and managers; promoting dialogue on media regulation.

Streamlining in high-level meetings; supporting the independent cultural sector through exchanges, pilot reform projects, visa procedures, and cultural management training; supporting government structures to reform practices and sharing expertise in the management of external cultur al policies.

Capitalizing on the European-American Cultural Foundation for financing EU Delegation cultural activities, developing educational, cultural and scientific programs; increasing awareness of Europe’s linguistic/cultural diversity. Directly funding cultural organizations; supporting residencies for artists/cultural managers: and funding, planning and evaluating international cultural projects.

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