Putting Culture at the heart of EU international relations

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and the European Commission presented on 8 June 2016 a new 'Strategy for international cultural relations', which aims to encourage cultural cooperation between the EU and its partner countries. This Joint Communication promotes a global order based on peace, the rule of law, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values. It also puts forward a new model for cooperation with Member States, national cultural institutes, private and public operators from the EU and its partner countries.

In the communication, Culture is recognised as a valuable resource to tackle many of the challenges Europe and the world are currently facing – such as the integration of refugees and migrants, countering violent radicalisation and the protection of cultural heritage. Increased cultural cooperation will contribute to making the EU a stronger global actor, in line with the ninth priority outlined by President Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014.


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The EU strategy for international cultural relations focuses on three main objectives:

  • Supporting culture as an engine for social and economic development (p.7)
  • Promoting intercultural dialogue and the role of culture for peaceful inter-community relations (p.10)
  • Reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage (p.11)

This third work stream is much welcomed by the heritage sector. The communication reads: “Cultural heritage is an important manifestation of cultural diversity that needs to be protected. Rehabilitating and promoting cultural heritage attracts tourism and boosts economic growth.” (p.11). The European Commission reiterated its support for research and innovation for cultural heritage – notably the Horizon 2020 and the Creative Europe Programmes. The Commission will also contribute to international efforts for the protection of cultural heritage sites and will consider a legislative proposal to regulate the import into the EU of cultural goods. One of the examples where the European Union is already implementing these objectives is through the financing of the UNESCO Project on the Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage.

This new strategy is in line with the recent announcement of a European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.


Read the Communication for international cultural relations here