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 European Union Delegations and EUNIC clusters.”
Under this arrangement, “joint pilot activities” are foreseen. EUNIC has received a grant to implement the Preparatory Action on European ‘Houses’ of Culture which will be running from 2018 through 2020.