The European Union is committed to developing a new strategy in international relations based on culture. Last April Federica Mogherini, in a speech at the Culture Forum in Brussels said that “Probably no other place in the world has the same cultural “density” as Europe. So much history, so many stories and cultures. We preserve millennial traditions and we are among the engines of global innovation. We should not be afraid to say we are a cultural super-power”.
It is for this reason that on 8 June 2016 the European Commission published a joint communication to the European Parliament and the Council towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations. The Communication lists the principles that the EU should follow in furthering international relations. These are: promoting cultural diversity and respect for human rights, fostering mutual respect and inter-cultural dialogue, ensuring respect for complementarity and subsidiarity, encouraging a cross-cutting approach to culture and promoting culture through existing frameworks for cooperation.
How did the EU arrive to this point?
Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union (one of the two treaties known as the Lisbon Treaty) provides that:
The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non- discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.
Among the values that underlie the single market there are a number of provisions which are related to culture including:
- The promotion of economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity between Member States;
- The respect for the rich cultural and linguistic heritage and ensuring that Europe’s (and not just the Union’s) cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.
And on the basis that the internal or single Union market promotes these values provides in Article 3(5) of the Treaty that:
In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.
There is a specific chapter on Culture in the other of the two Lisbon Treaties, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Article 167 provides:
The Union shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore.
The Union and the Member States shall foster cooperation with third countries and the competent international organisations in the sphere of culture, in particular the Council of Europe.
The Union shall take cultural aspects into account in its action under other provisions of the Treaties, in particular in order to respect and to promote the diversity of its cultures.
It can be concluded that European culture must be at the core of the EU’s international relations. It could even be asked why it has taken so long for the Commission to publish a communication on the issue.
Culture in EU external relations is one of the three pillars of the European Agenda for Culture (2007). Developing a strategic approach in this field has been a priority of the Council's Work Plans for Culture since 2011. A major step forward was made with the European Parliament's Preparatory Action "Culture in EU external relations" (2013-14), which highlighted the considerable potential for culture in Europe’s external relations and underlined that the European Union and its Member States stand to gain a great deal by better streamlining their cultural diplomacy.
The EU strategy for international cultural relations will focus on three main objectives:
i) Supporting culture as an engine for social and economic development
The economic benefits of cultural exchanges are too often overlooked. Global trade in creative products has more than doubled between 2004 and 2013, despite the global recession. Culture is a central element in the new economy driven by creativity, innovation, digital dimension and access to knowledge. Cultural and creative industries represent around 3% of global GDP and 30 million jobs. In the EU alone these industries account for more than 7 million jobs. In developing countries, UNESCO's Culture for Development Indicators (CDIS) show that culture contributes 1.5% to 5.7% of GDP in low and middle-income countries.
The available data both in developing and developed countries indicate that the cultural sectors may account, depending on the country and scope, for 2% and 7% of GDP respectively, which is more than many other traditional industrial sectors.
The EU strategy for international cultural relations should therefore also become a strategy for inclusive growth and job creation.
ii) Promoting intercultural dialogue and the role of culture for peaceful inter-community relations
Inter-cultural dialogue, including inter-religious dialogue, is a key tool in promoting the building of fair, peaceful and inclusive societies as well as the value of cultural diversity and respect for human rights. It establishes common ground and a favourable environment for further exchanges.
Inter-cultural dialogue will be promoted through cooperation between cultural operators; peace-building cultural activities; exchanges between young people, students, researchers, scientists and alumni; as well as through cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage.
iii) Reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage
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. There are many opportunities for joint action with partner countries to develop sustainable strategies for heritage protection through training, skills development and knowledge transfer.
The EU supports research and innovation for cultural heritage. The Commission will 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. It will also propose to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to organise a European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.
To help the EU implement the strategy and create synergies among all EU stakeholders (EU delegations, national cultural institutes and foundations, private and public enterprises, civil society), a Cultural Diplomacy Platform was set up in February 2016, focusing on strategic countries. Operated by a consortium of Member States' Cultural Institutes and other partners, the Platform will deliver policy advice, facilitate networking, carry out activities with cultural stakeholders and develop training programmes for cultural leadership.
On issue not addressed by the Communication is the protection of Geographical Indications. The first recital to Regulation 1151/2012 on EU Quality Products makes clear that GIs are part of the EU’s cultural and gastronomic heritage. Thus the protection of GIs must form a basic part of all of the EU international relations. This refers not only to trade agreements like the TTIP but also all other interchanges that the EU has with third countries.
In relation to TTIP it means that the EU cannot back away from strong protection for EU GIs as an essential part of the deal.