Round table on the Cultural Dimension of Europe’s External Relations

3 June 2010

On 23 June 2010 at 18.30pm at the European Parliament in Brussels, a round table discussing the issue of the “Cultural Dimension of Europe’s External Relations” takes place at the invitation of Doris Pack, Chair of the Committee for Culture and Education of the European Parliament. It is co-organised by EUNIC and “A Soul for Europe” – Brussels office European House for Culture Participants include: Elmar Brok, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, MEP; Finn Andersen, President of EUNIC and director of the Danish Cultural Institute; Volker Hassemer, President of the Board of Managers of A Soul for Europe; Alice Guitton, Member of Cabinet of Baroness Ashton, H.R.E.U.for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Gottfired Wagner, Director of the European Cultural Foundation. The discussion is aimed at thinking about tools, responsibilities, and competences in shaping Europe’s cultural foreign policies: How is Europe’s cultural potential reflected and translated in the European foreign policies? What role for the European Parliament – for the different committees - for the Commission and its DGs, for national foreign ministries, for cities and regions in a new policy setting? What set up of the new European External Action Service? What role for national cultural institutes and civil society? Background note One of Europe’s greatest strengths is its cultural vitality. If European Union is to present itself effectively to the rest of the world, its cultural potential must be at the heart of its relations. European culture – not merely the sum of the EU’s National cultures – is energetic and thriving, drawing its strength from the multiplicity and diversity of national, regional and local culture in Europe. Europe’s language is its cultural diversity. The skill and expertise with which it handles this is an important metaphor for all other policy areas, from democratic legitimacy to environmental and economic sustainability .If Europe is first and foremost a cultural project, policies (in terms of their significance, priorities, competences, partnerships) have to reflect this potential. Also outside Europe. Europe’s culture rests on common ground of experiences that evolved out of the continent’s history and the development of its values, summed up in the Conventions of the Council of Europe and the Preamble to the Lisbon Treaty. These European values, whatever their national and regional origins, are the essential basis on which the process of European integration rests. Strengthening and promoting ideas and policies for cosmopolitan integration and cohesion rests on cultural solutions. The EU can be pioneering in this field, explaining how concepts like ‘Participation’ and ‘cultural citizenship’ can be key words in shaping policy. These are not just important in terms of economic development and urban cohesion; they offer significant opportunities to create new ways of avoiding and recovering from conflict around the world. State of play: EU policy, Member States and External Relations The European Agenda for Culture in a Globalising World (adopted by the EU institutions in 2007) highlights External Relations as a prominent field for the implementation of the Agenda’s main objective, namely to give culture a place at the heart of EU policies. On top of this, the EU has identified Culture as one of the principal strands of its external relations policy: strengthening the rule of law, developing cultural diplomacy as an instrument of conflict prevention and management, protecting and enhancing cultural heritage, creating mechanisms for civil society co-operation, dialogue and exchange (people to people contacts). The Council has endorsed the set up of a new European External Action Service. It is aimed at enabling greater coherence and efficiency in the EU's external action and increasing its political and economic influence in the world. It will assist the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in fulfilling her mandate. What role for culture in the external relations? At a national level, the agenda within the informal group of directors for cultures at Ministries of Foreign Affairs (the only formal group for discussion between Member States on this issue) developed after the Slovenian and French presidencies goes in the direction of strategies for promoting co-operation projects. This is an important step as it goes beyond just separate national cultural foreign policies. Nevertheless, in the light of the launch of the new High Representative of the European Union, isn’t the time ripe to launch - within this new mandate - a real, integral cultural foreign policy of the European Union and establish adequate administrative conditions for this new mandate? (Text by “A Soul for Europe”: European House for Culture) Related documents and links: • Draft ProgammeInvitation by Doris Pack, Member of the European Parliament • Background note“A Soul for Europe” Website.