Cultural Heritage at the heart of the new EU strategy on cultural diplomacy

In the joint communication ‘Towards an EU strategy on international cultural relations’, Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, and Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, presented the EU’s new strategy on cultural diplomacy on 8 June 2016. Cultural heritage features prominently in the communication which does not only refer to the close cooperation of EU with UNESCO in the safeguarding of the world’s cultural heritage but also dedicates a whole strand to reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage.

Protecting cultural heritage is identified as one of the major global challenges that culture and intercultural dialogue can help addressing. Likewise, the contribution of world cultural heritage to achieving inclusive and sustainable development is mentioned, together with the fact that culture can promote job creation and competitiveness. In addition, the role of EU delegations around the world will be enhanced so as to join forces with national cultural institutes for promoting cultural diplomacy.

The communication outlines the EU’s existing contributions to international cultural relations and proposes “ways to develop the EU’s international cultural relations in order to advance the Union’s objectives to promote international peace and stability, safeguard diversity, and stimulate jobs and growth”. The strategy identifies guiding principles for EU action, strategic approach to cultural diplomacy and three main strands to focus on, namely 1) supporting culture as an engine for sustainable social and economic development, 2) promoting culture and intercultural dialogue for peaceful inter-community relations, and 3) reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage will thus in the future play a key role in the EU’s international relations. On the occasion of the UNESCO Conference ‘#Unite4Heritage – Cultural Diversity under Attack: Protecting Heritage for Peace’ held in Brussels on 9-10 June 2016, the new EU strategy on cultural diplomacy was presented in more detail by representatives of the European Commission.

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