Article 167 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU stipulates that the EU and its Member States shall foster cooperation with third countries and competent international organisations in the field of culture. At the same time, the EU has the obligation to take cultural aspects into account in all its policies in order to respect and promote the diversity of its cultures. This is also true in the case of the EU relations with third countries and regions: the EU enlargement partners, the European Neighbourhood Policy countries , countries with which the EU has successfully concluded trade agreements, industrialised, emerging and developing countries.
Moreover, as a Party to the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the European Union, alongside the EU Member States, is committed to making cultural diversity an essential element of its external action, contributing to sustainable development and peaceful coexistence among cultures.
A new strategic framework for culture in the EU’s external relations has emerged following the adoption of the European Agenda for Culture in 2007: culture has been increasingly perceived as a strategic factor of political, social and economic development than showcasing of isolated cultural events. In addition, the Council Conclusions on the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue [149 KB] in the external relations of the EU and its Member States (2008) outlined a strategic approach for culture in the context of EU external relations, calling for the elaboration of a European strategy for incorporating culture in external relations, as well as specific strategies for regions and countries outside the Union.
As part of this strategy setting process, the European Commission set up in 2012 an expert group on culture and external relations, which focused on the development of a strategic approach to cultural relations with China. Summary report of the group [32 KB] .
A preparatory action on culture and the EU external relations is also being implemented.
The European Commission maintains policy dialogue in the field of culture with emerging global partners including Brazil, China, India and Mexico. Cooperation may take the form of policy exchanges or joint actions.
As regards bi-regional cooperation the European Commission is a member of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and a contributor to the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). Both organisations are active in the field of culture and in particular as regards the fostering of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue.