EUNIC Focal Points meeting Vilnius 2023
Once a year, nominated Focal Points for EUNIC in each member organisation come together to co-create the programme of the EUNIC network, and to have a peer-to-peer platform to discuss key developments as well as current challenges in international cultural relations. This year, the meeting was co-hosted by the Lithuanian Culture Institute in Vilnius from 15-16 May 2023.
The EUNIC Focal Points meeting is a yearly moment for colleagues working in close contact with EUNIC for each member organisation to meet live and gain insights into most pressing topics and challenges faced by other members of the network. In order to get to know each other's working context better, these meetings take place in a different location each year. Co-hosted by the Lithuanian Culture Institute this time, 26 colleagues representing 25 EUNIC member organisations came together in Vilnius, Lithuania on 15 and 16 May 2023.
On this occasion, this year's meeting began with a visit of the headquarters of the Lithuanian Culture Institute, accompanied by a short introduction by the newly appointed director of the institute, Julija Reklaitė. Taking into account the different geopolitical realities in Europe in which EUNIC members operate, being in Lithuania enabled a focus on specific pressing issues in the region and to give the stage to local actors. In this case, a dedicated panel discussion on the context, needs and approaches to supporting Belarusian cultural actors in exile allowed participants to explore and learn about a highly relevant topic in Lithuania at the moment and to closely exchange with invited experts.
Focal Points are a vital tier of the EUNIC network, allowing for close and regular exchanges between the EUNIC office, EUNIC member headquarters and local branches worldwide. Coming together to share their experiences, needs and engagement as members allows to strategically discuss future focus topics and priorities of the network as well as to continuously develop EUNIC's shared programme. On this basis, the evolution and future of core programme areas such as the EUNIC Mobility Scheme and European Spaces of Culture were discussed in small groups. Additionally, needs and ideas for training modules on cultural relations specifically targeted at EUNIC members' staff were exchanged. Another important aspect of the meeting was a deeper discussion of observed challenges in the cluster network, and areas of untapped potential where EUNIC could collectively drive improvement and professionalisation in the future. In this framework, colleagues developed ideas for solutions around the topics of cluster governance, internal cluster support from headquarters and the wider strategic expectations and terms of reference for clusters.
The meeting was also a moment to get an understanding of the wider and evolving context in which EUNIC operates, and to monitor paradigm shifts, threats and opportunities to cultural relations work more generally. To facilitate bilateral exchanges on some of these specific aspects, colleagues were invited to share some areas of expertise as well as questions they had to the network and colleagues. Topics discussed ranged from questions around the legal status of individual institutes to national policy making having an impact on cultural relations, and how institutes are focusing their priorities and resources amongst the background of shifting geopolitics and funding.
Next to this, the Focal Points meeting was also the occasion to prepare the next EUNIC General Assembly, which will take place in Copenhagen on 29 and 30 June 2023. It will be co-hosted by the Danish Cultural Institute under the incoming EUNIC presidency of Camilla Mordhorst.
Read the full report of the meeting here.