Related documents & links
Europe´s Foreign Cultural Relations Conference Report
On 8 December 2010 EUNIC organised an expert seminar in cooperation with ifa and the British Council
On the occasion of the Europe’s Foreign Cultural Relations conference on 8th December 2010, staff of European cultural institutes, EUNIC Heads and cultural experts discussed the role of culture in European external relations. With the Treaty of Lisbon (which was ratified in 2009), the EU member states decided to introduce the EEAS (European External Action Service), and to intensify European Foreign and Security Policy. Since the EEAS was set up, the integration of culture in foreign policy and in European external cultural relations is becoming increasingly significant.
The first session of the conference focused on the European economical crisis, the need of a sustainable economy, and international cooperation and cohesion. In times of economic difficulty leading to social problems, access to culture can function as an effective instrument to keep Europe and Europeans together in the process of sustainable development. It can also reinforce social cohesion among citizens. All EUNIC members need to work together to support culture and the creation of a platform that brings together ideas and experiences among people from different countries and diverse cultures. The notion of “people to people- relations”, the purpose of which is to increase international understanding through educational and cultural projects and to sustain communication across communities and nations, was agreed to have particular importance. Every level of cooperation is useful to get visibility on different cultural projects. EUNIC collaboration aims to realise tangible and feasible initiatives to overcome current crisis effects.
Cultural experts argued that because EUNIC is defined as a cultural umbrella organisation, it is necessary to ensure continuity in its cooperation with partners and to improve its communication structure. It was said that it would be useful to offer courses and seminars for the entire staff of EUNIC, something which EUNIC in Brussels has already started offering to the staff of its member institutes.
The fragmentation of cultural values can be avoided by promoting European relations and communication through sports, arts, education, mobility, and tourism. Recognisable cultural values need to be experienced by people in their everyday life and this can only be achieved through cooperation on a global level and through diplomacy, cultural relations, as well as practical policy. In this way it is possible to support the formation of a European consciousness within but also beyond the European continent.
As discussed during the second session of the conference, Europe is considered all over the world for its high quality of life and its unique social model. These benefits represent an example outside Europe and they need to be preserved and enhanced. The European quality system generates a positive European image outside the continent, improving and influencing outside relationships. The geographical position of the Ukraine for example, and its desire to be included in the European system is connected to the necessity to acquire a European cultural identity. Because of relational difficulties, the Ukraine has neither Russian nor European identity. This case allows us to understand how important it is to maintain strong links within and outside Europe to preserve a cultural identity, and to represent a model for countries around the world. The more attractive the European system is the more cooperation will be possible with other states and institutions.
During the last session of the conference, Martin Hope (President of EUNIC in Brussels) introduced EUNIC’s involvement in Culture and Development, which aims to support global cooperation and initiatives through its clusters in Ethiopia, South Africa and Mozambique as well as through its input into a recent brochure launched by the European Commission at the recent European Development Days. . EUNIC intends to contribute to the preservation cultural diversity, and to cooperate with disadvantaged areas and regions in order to contribute to the socio-economic development of communities concerned as well as the respect of human rights and democratic values. The role of EUNIC and its member institutes has mostly changed from “supplier of culture” to “facilitators of culture”. EUNIC supports a strategy for the integration of culture into EU and national development policies and is promoting intercultural dialogue and concrete developments plans but also the role of culture as a model for economic and social progress. The positive effects of such initiatives and activities will help Europe demonstrate the concrete values of culture and the benefits of European collaboration and can support and help underdeveloped areas gaining admiration and trust inside and outside Europe.