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International cooperation

What is it about?

The EU is committed to promoting culture in its international relations, and particularly the diversity of culture in the EU, in line with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

The 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is the main legislation in this area and the EU is a party to it.

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.

On 8 June 2016, the Commission adopted a new strategy to put culture at the heart of EU international relations.

Why is it needed?

Europe is an increasingly multi-cultural space and cultural relations can:

  • increase dialogue between countries
  • enable peace building and conflict resolution
  • empower civil society
  • promote democratic values and human rights

Through its relationships with other regions, Europe and its partners can learn from each other, sharing information and ideas.

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,to culture in the EU's external relations, including:

In order to devise an effective strategy for cultural relations, the Commission has:

  • set up a group of experts to develop a strategic approach to cultural relations with non-EU countries, using China as a test case, leading to a report on culture and external relations with China in 2012pdf(171 kB) Choose translations of the previous link 
  • carried out a large-scale mapping and consultation process in 2013-14 across 54 countries, with support from cultural institutes and organisations, following the ‘Culture in EU External Relations’ Preparatory Action
  • drawn up approaches, strategies and views on the role of culture in international relations and exploring ways to take a more strategic approach to culture at EU level
  • This led to a final report and a series of country reports which outline approaches, strategies and views on the role of culture in international relations and produced recommendations on how to develop a more strategic approach to culture at EU level
  • The Commission also consulted key stakeholders on the added-value, possible objectives and principles underpinning a more strategic approach to culture in the Union's external relations. The consultation meetingpdf(188 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  took place in Brussels on 9 June 2015.

Building on the outcomes of these consultations, the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy adopted a Joint Communication “Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations” on 8 June 2016.

The Commission also ensures that cultural aspects are taken into account when negotiating trade, cooperation, or association agreements with non-EU countries,and supports cultural and audiovisual projects with non-EU countries through its 2014-20 Creative Europe Programme.