What is it about?
The EU is committed to developing a more active role for culture in its international relations, in particular in order to respect and promote the diversity of its cultures – as specified in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (article 167). The EU is also called upon to "foster cooperation with third countries and… international organisations in the sphere of culture".
The main framework of cooperation is the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, to which the EU is a party.
Promoting culture as a vital element in EU international relations has been one of the three main objectives of the European Agenda for Culture since 2007.
Why is it needed?
In an increasingly globalised world, our exposure to other cultures has increased and identities have become more multi-faceted. Cultural relations are vectors of dialogue among groups and nations, enablers of peace building and conflict resolution, and vehicles for empowering civil society and promoting democratic values and human rights.
While Europe shares a common cultural space of creativity and diversity, it also develops its relationships with other regions through mutual learning and sharing.
What is the Commission's role?
Since the adoption of the European Agenda for Culture in 2007, various actors have called for a more strategic approach, including:
As part of this strategy-setting process, the European Commission set up a group of experts in 2012 which focused on the development of a strategic approach to cultural relations with third countries, taking China as a test case. The work of the group culminated in the publication of a report on culture and external relations with China in 2012(171 kB)
In 2013-2014, the Preparatory Action "Culture in EU External Relations" led to a large-scale mapping and consultation process across 54 countries (including EU Member States, neighbouring countries and strategic partners of the EU), which was carried out with the support of a consortium of cultural institutes and organisations.
This helped identify approaches, strategies and views regarding the role of culture in external relations and possible avenues for a more strategic approach to culture in this field at EU level. The process culminated in a final report and a series of country reports.
Moreover, the EU also ensures that cultural aspects are duly taken into account in the negotiation of trade, cooperation, or associations agreements with partner countries.
In addition, the new Creative Europe Programme (2014-2020) can support cultural and audio-visual cooperation projects with third countries.