EU Cultural Cooperation with Third Countries: The Cases of Latin America and the Mediterranean

Carmina Crusafon


Culture plays a prominent role in international relations. The concept of soft power has also become increasingly relevant for any foreign policy strategy. According to Nye (2011: 183), '[t]he soft power of a country rests heavily on three basic resources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when others see them as legitimate and having moral authority)'. Culture is therefore a basic element in this day and age, in which outcomes are shaped not merely by whose army prevails but also by whose story and culture prevails.

In Europe, culture, and cultural cooperation, in particular, has been part of the regional integration process for several years. The introduction of culture in European Union (EU) primary law in 1993 marked the beginning of the EU's cultural policy. With the Treaty of Maastricht, culture gained prominence also as an ally for increasing European visibility all over the world. Presently, several EU external policies include culture and cultural cooperation with third countries as a key element. This cultural dimension of EU external action is strengthened by Article 167(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which stipulates that the EU and its member states shall foster cooperation with third countries and competent international organisations in the area of culture.

EU cultural cooperation rests on multilevel interaction in the global arena and targets various geographical areas: the EU enlargement partners, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries, and other third countries. The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of the EU's cultural cooperation with third countries and regions; to compare distinct cultural cooperation strategies in order to understand how the geopolitical context influences EU cultural activity; and to investigate the role culture and cultural cooperation play in the EU's external relations more broadly.

The analysis focuses on the EU's cultural cooperation with Latin America and the Mediterranean. Latin America reveals different modes of cultural interaction at the supranational and bilateral levels in the same region. Leading action is taken at the supranational level and it is framed under the Interregional framework cooperation agreement with Mercosur,1 and the agreements entered into with CARIFORUM,2 and the Central and Andean America countries.3 Furthermore, two Latin America countries, Mexico and Brazil, have individual programmes with the EU in the cultural field. In the case of the Mediterranean, following the recommendations of the Barcelona process and various ministerial meetings and debates, the EU has developed two key programmes, Euromed Heritage and Euromed Audiovisual - both illustrative of the place culture has assumed in the ENP. The analysis assesses the similarities and the differences between the cultural cooperation models developed by the EU for the two regions and shows that the audiovisual industry, in particular, plays a central role as a benefactor of European cultural cooperation (Crusafon, 2010, 2011).

The chapter has four sections. The first discusses cultural cooperation as part of the EU external policies. The second explores EU cultural activities focused on Latin America, and the third focuses on the Mediterranean. The chapter ends with some concluding remarks.

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