This morning (27 June) the EUNIC Siena Cultural Relations Forum was opened by EUNIC Global Director Gitte Zschoch and Pierangelo Isernia (University of Siena). This event brings together cultural relations policy makers and practitioners together with academics and researchers in an attempt to bridge the gaps between the theory, policy and practice of the EU’s international cultural relations.
Gitte put the Cultural Relations Forum into the context of the European Union strategic approach to international cultural relations and of major challenges Europe is facing right now. The Forum not only evaluates how the Joint Communication “Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations” has been implemented so far, but it also focuses on the core principles of the EU strategic approach to cultural relations and who is involved.
Over the past decades, it was traditionally the members of EUNIC that were most active in international cultural relations or cultural diplomacy. After the Second World War or the fall of the Berlin wall, they created networks around the world where they engaged with local experts in arts and culture. However, the world has changed and has become smaller. There are new actors working in the field of cultural relations. It is therefore important to bring everyone to the table and to discuss how different actors can participate in cultural relations.
The Joint Communication “Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations” is based on a number of core principles:
Over the course of the Cultural Relations Forum these principles will be further explored, and discussions will focus on how to put them into practice.
When looking at present-day Europe, we can identify five major challenges:
These challenges have brought us to a moment of movement and change.
One of the principle ideas of the Cultural Relations Forum is to bring together academics, practitioners and policy makers. These three groups are diverse and have different mindsets, making this an ambitious objective. For academics, one of the main challenges would be to find evidence that has influence outside academics. For practitioners it is vital to understand their responsibilities as Europeans in a post-colonial world, by moving away from nation branding. For policy makers it is important to meet those people that are active in their policy areas, to engage and to learn from each other.
Moreover, when speaking of dialogue, mutual listen and learning, it is important to be as participatory as possible, and to not limit the conversation to Europe alone. The Cultural Relations Forum therefore gladly welcomes several voices from among others South Africa, Benin and Australia. The Cultural Relations Forum therefore is more a moment of reflection, rather than for creating an action plan.
The EUNIC Siena Cultural Relations Forum is organised by EUNIC in partnership with the University of Siena. It is the closing event of the Cultural Relations at Work (CReW) project. The CReW project focused on the implementation of the Joint Communication “Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations”, the fundamental policy paper that lays out the EU strategy for international cultural relations.