A New Strategy to Put Culture at the Heart of EU International Relations... and Brexit
At the beginning of June 2016 the European Commission published a joint communication to the European Parliament and the Council: Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations, which aims at encouraging cultural cooperation between the EU and its partner countries and promoting a global order based on peace, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values. Several parties - Member States, the European Parliament and civil society - have called on the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to develop a strategic vision to advance international cultural relations.
The Joint Communication proposes a strategic framework for deeper and more effective international cultural relations as well as a new model for cooperation with EU Member States, EU national cultural institutes, private and public operators from the EU and its partner countries, for increasing opportunities, creating synergies and reinforcing socio-economic benefits. The three main cultural cooperation objectives are: to support culture as an engine for sustainable social and economic development; to promote culture and intercultural dialogue for peaceful inter-community relations; and to reinforce cooperation on cultural heritage. In pursuing these objectives, the EU's international cultural relations will contribute to making the European Union a stronger global actor in international relations, a stronger contributor to mutual understanding. The Strategy also stresses the importance of EU's cooperation with UNESCO and, as a party to UNESCO's 2005 Convention, reiterates its commitment to promote the diversity of cultural expressions as part of its international cultural relations.
The Strategy aims at moving the whole European project forward. However, almost simultaneously with the presentation of the EU Strategy for international cultural relations, i.e., during the month of June, the referendum and the decision by the United Kingdom's electorate to leave the European Union took place. How to understand and deal with the consequences - that is the question of many artists, cultural institutions, etc., both in the UK and the EU. The UK benefits hugely from being in (is it possible to forget the regeneration of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture, and the perspective of another capital of culture in the UK in 2023, to mention just one example?). The EU Strategy for international cultural relations as well as the EU's forthcoming Global Strategy will not be the same without the UK and its engagement. The question is what the status of the UK will be as a non-EU country: a partner country? a neighbourhood country? a third country? or could a Euro-Britain Cultural Foundation be established, following the example of The Euro-American Cultural Foundation established in 2013?
We, the Europeans, do not forget the fact that 75 per cent of the voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted to remain in the EU - and they are our future, our hope; otherwise, it could be - to paraphrase Umberto Eco - a passo di gambero.