1. EUNIC's partnership with the European Union
In June 2016, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, together with the European Commission, presented a paper called “Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations” as a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and to the Council of the European Union. It was subsequently endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in May 2017. 

The Joint Communication proposes the following principles:

A cross-cutting, overarching approach to culture which includes inter-cultural dialogue, tourism, education, research, creative industries, heritage, new technologies, artisanship, development cooperation

A new definition of cultural diplomacy in terms of cultural relations, highlighting the importance “to go beyond projecting the diversity of European cultures, and aim at generating a new spirit of dialogue, mutual listening and learning, joint capacity-building and global solidarity”;

Three work-streams for cooperation: supporting culture as an engine for sustainable social and economic development;
promoting culture and intercultural dialogue for peaceful inter-community relations; and reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage.

Enhanced cooperation with Cultural Institutes, in the form of “a new type of partnership between the EEAS, Commission services, national cultural institutes and their umbrella organisation” (EUNIC). 

To institutionalise this “enhanced cooperation”, EUNIC negotiated an agreement with the EU institutions, the “Administrative Arrangement” which was signed in May 2017 by the EEAS, the European Commission (Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission, DG EAC), and EUNIC. This document is based on the principles of the Joint Communication outlined above.

The main objectives of the Administrative Arrangement are:

Working together: To develop a “concerted approach to international cultural relations” between the signatories

Flexible participation: To use the “principle of ‘variable geometry’”, meaning that not all stakeholders are expected to participate in all projects but they can support those which fit with their own priorities   

Collaborating with local partners: To seek “enhanced cooperation and complementarity with relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations, public authorities, international organisations where appropriate, and between EuropeanUnion Delegations and EUNIC clusters.” 

Under this arrangement, “joint pilot activities”are foreseen. EUNIC has been invited to submit a proposal for a Preparatory Action on “European ‘Houses’ for Culture” which will be implemented by EUNIC Global and its network from 2018 through 2020.
2. Preparatory Action: European 'Houses' of Culture: Innovative Collaboration Models
The European ‘Houses’ of Culture is an EU-funded project attributed to EUNIC. The preparatory action was initiated by the European Parliament to test and implement innovative collaboration models between European actors (EUNIC members and EU delegations) and local stakeholders in countries outside of the EU. The project helps to deliver the EU strategy on international cultural relations.

The term ‘Houses’ is to be understood rather symbolically: the project tests collaboration models and practices in a broader sense, that create spaces, whether physical or digital, permanent or temporary, for cultural exchange, co-creation and people-to-people contacts.

EUNIC Global will manage the action and will carry out the main actions of the project, from conducting the mapping and preparing the call to evaluating the project and reporting back to the European Commission. The Global office will work closely together with EUNIC members, the European Commission and EU Delegations throughout the project.

With an overall budget of EUR 833,419 (EU grant: EUR 750,000), the project consists of three main actions:

January - April 2019
Mapping of past and current models of European ‘Houses’ of Culture over the past 30 years, both inside and outside the EU. European ‘Houses’ of Culture are understood as spaces for cultural exchange and encounter between the peoples of the EU and the rest of the world. 

April 2019 - October 2020
Call for proposals to identify innovative collaboration models between EUNIC members, EU delegations and local stakeholders in third countries. The call will have two phases.

Phase 1 will select 10 ideas of innovative collaboration models and award them EUR 10.000 for further developing the ideas into detailed project plans.

April 2019: Expected launch of the call
June 2019: Deadline for submission of proposals
July 2019: Expected publication of results
September - December 2019: Further development of proposals into project plans

Phase 2 will select 5 out of the 10 models identified and award them EUR 50.000 each to implement these pilot actions within a tight timeframe.

December 2019: Deadline for submission of project plans
January 2020: Evaluation of project plans
February 2020: Publication of results
March - October 2020: Implementation period: (8 months)
October 2020: Submission of reports and documentation

Throughout the project
Evaluation of the concept and collaboration models ofEuropean ‘Houses’ of Culture, notably to what extent they could become a tool to help deliver the new EU strategy for international cultural relations. At the end of the project (November-December 2020), the evaluation will deliver policy recommendations and a toolkit with the models identified, lessons learned, good practice and recommendations

How to get involved?

EUNIC members (HQ)
are encouraged to communicate to their networks about the project and its milestones, the survey and the call for proposals - specifically to encourage and support their networks in their application and project implementation. Members may apply to the call for proposals themselves too.

EUNIC clusters are invited to contribute to the research and to apply for the call for proposals, in close cooperation with their respective EU Delegations. Clusters can contribute to the research by identifying successful collaboration models and suggest new models through the online survey. Once the call for proposals is launched, they can apply and if selected, work on the further development of the detailed projects and their implementation.

For more information about the project and its process, contact Robert Kieft (Project Manager European 'Houses' of Culture) at EUNIC Global: