Cultural diplomacy, moving from processes to substance

In efforts to promote the role of culture as an important vector of EU external relations, on 20 April 2022, the EESC held a hearing on its upcoming opinion Cultural diplomacy as a vector of EU external relations. New partnerships and role of CSO (rapporteur Mr Luca Jahier).

The hearing gathered a number of prestigious speakers underlining the need for a structured approach, a concrete action plan, a clear vision and continuity of action to fully exploit the vast potential of cultural diplomacy. 

'To build the new strategy, we need a common approach which includes active participation of the civil society, adopts a people-to-people approach and creates genuine dialogues' stated Gaia DANESE from the European External Action Service (EEAS). In respect to the principles of subsidiarity, the European Union has to bring added value in continuous dialogue with the Member States.

Culture being one of the pillars of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) strategy, Ibrahim NORBERT RICHARD, Assistant Secretary-General in the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) emphasised that cultural networks can be drivers and multipliers of cooperation.

 'Culture is glue that fosters mutual understanding' stated Agnieszka SKURATOWICZ from the European Commission's DG INTPA. Herself and Olivier FONTAINE from DG EAC presented the European Commission's initiatives and programmes to support culture as vector of the EU external policy.

We need to focus on preparedness and making culture more resilient, said Louise HAXTHAUSEN, director of UNESCO's Brussels Liaison Office, stressing the potential of culture to contribute to peace in challenging global contexts, the importance of promotion of culture as an enabler of sustainable development, and its potential for social and economic growth. 

Talking about the broad action of the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC), its director Andrew MANNING, pointed out the need for a huge paradigm shift and upgrade at the EU level on the subject of culture in EU's external relations through a fully-fledged action plan. He added that 'civil society leads the conversation'.

In an increasingly divided world in which dialogue has become less and less important, culture can play a vital role in re-establishing communication on the international scene. While it should not serve political goals, the action plan to be developed cannot be purely technical; it requires political agreement, guidance and deep reflexion, including as part of the Strategic Compass stressed the Chair of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and former Director-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), Stefano MANSERVISI.

Some of the measures that should be considered include giving back cultural heritage, facilitating funding in creative industries, strengthening relationships between cities, fostering mobility and reinforcing the role of points of contact in EU delegations.

Cultural heritage is the most visible sign of identity, and current conflicts demonstrate that heritage is often not only collateral damage, but also a target pointed out Valéry FRELAND, Executive Director of Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH). He stressed ALIPH's action to promote and protect heritage through public and private partnerships, concrete projects, awareness raising, working with local communities and cooperating with international partners.

Teresa PATRICIO, President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) emphasized how important it is to safeguard cultural heritage for future generations, encourage dialogue and solidarity, and promote exchanges and inclusive cultural initiatives in a multidisciplinary manner.

While stressing the increasing importance of the EU enlargement policy, Sneska QUAEDVLIEG MIHAILOVIC, Secretary-General of Europa Nostra, called for a "quantum leap" and further investment in culture and heritage within EU relations with partners & neighbours based on European and universal values.

Work organisation