Culture in EU External Relations: Strategic Reflections and Future Scenarios

Publication Date: 
Item Reference: 
EL-CSID Policy Brief 2019/16
Publication Place: 
Institute for European Studies
Publication Language: 
Policy Brief Type: 

The future of EU International Cultural Relations (ICR) will depend upon factors which this policy paper presents as internal and external to the EU. In reality, they influence each other and transcend political borders. The rise ofpopulist and nationalist forces takes place both within and outside Europe. The global nature of the challenges humanity faces in terms of trust, tolerance and education affect in different ways all countries and transversally impact our capacity to achieve sustainable development. Hard power seems to be gaining prominence over soft power and persuasion. Uses of soft power (and propaganda) persist in the framework of identity politics, where culture is increasingly regarded as a set of national features defined in oppositions to others, rather than a tool for dialogue and cooperation. In whatever direction these factors evolve, the foresight analysis presented in this paper points at a key finding: investing in stronger EU cooperation in International Cultural Relations, rather than Cultural Diplomacy, remains the best solution for EU leadership. An EU strategic approach to ICR rooted in development policy and inter-cultural dialogue bears the promise to facilitate cooperation among EU institutions, member states (MS) and their cultural institutes, as well as broader cultural networks based on innovative models. An approach based on subsidiarity and arm’s length relations with cultural actors can serve EU’s interests better than a top-down Cultural Diplomacy. However, a series of criticalities could potentially affect this emerging policy, which calls for some recommendations on the process and content of the approach under development.