7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

A strategy for culture in EU external relations and development policies

A strategy for culture in EU external relations and development policies

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 14:15 to 15:30

Key points

•    Working with educational institutions is vital to make cultural programmes mainstream.
•    EU and national policies should cover all the creative industries, including tourism, design and fashion.
•    War and ethnic conflicts pose a direct threat to cultural heritage. 
•    Culture can be a driver for tackling prejudice and boosting social inclusiveness.


A mention of the word culture to the development community in the past was likely to elicit a less than favourable response. That is one of the reasons why the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy came up with a strategy for enhancing the role of culture in EU external relations.

The Culture in EU External Relations initiative was funded with the support of a consortium of eight cultural institutes and organisations and launched by the European Parliament with a resolution calling for the development of a visible common EU policy on culture.

After exhaustive work, including a widespread consultation exercise, the new strategy was formally adopted on 8 June.

The blueprint commits the EU to supporting local cultural production and assisting partner countries in developing modern and inclusive cultural policies. National ownership and the involvement of local authorities will be essential to the success of the strategy. For this reason, it envisages a bigger role for European Commission delegations so as to ensure that interventions are tailored to local needs.

The Commission, which is now charged with implementing the strategy, believes that culture can play a decisive role in the development of external relations and wants to advocate the concept to policymakers on a national and international level.

One idea is to move away from the traditional way of promoting and showcasing culture in Europe at film festivals and suchlike.

While there is no intention of abandoning this, the new approach seeks to expand the so-called people-to-people dimension and cultivating more cooperation between member states.

The hope is that this will enable people to get a better understanding of other cultures and at the same time further social and economic development.

Cultural diversity and respect for human rights underpin the strategy which also seeks to foster mutual respect and intercultural dialogue.

One example of how culture can help formerly divided communities come together arose in Sri Lanka. After 30 years of  bitter and bloody ethnic conflict, various cultural projects, some funded by the EU, have helped foster increased mutual trust and respect among groups who were formerly divided along religious, gender, class or other lines.

Such efforts have resulted, for instance, in the emergence of the country’s first ever bilingual, multiethnic theatre group comprising people who used to be in direct conflict with each other.
This is the sort of model the newly adopted strategy will seek to emulate.

With heritage and historic cultural sites in countries like Syria under a greater threat than ever before, this objective makes the strategy particularly timely.



While there may no such thing as a single European culture, the cultural diversity of the Continent is one of its great distinguishing features; the new, far-reaching EU strategy aims to build on this and also to put culture at the heart of the development community.

Organised by

    Damien Helly
    Deputy Head of Programme, Strengthening European External Action
    European Centre for Development Policy Management
    Hasini Haputhanthri
    Technical Advisor
    Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
    Walter Zampieri
    Head of Unit, Cultural Diversity and Innovation
    European Commission - DG for Education and Culture
    Diego Marani
    Desk Officer
    European External Action Service
    Aida Liha Matejicek
    Head of Unit
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
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