The art in camaraderie

high on a hill sat a... - Version 2It is good to see a cultural diplomacy event without ‘soft power’ in the title and a relief to see a focus on transnational strategy, not just national impact.   Is the EU at last waking up to the importance of culture to its political agenda?

The ’Culture in EU External Relations’  initiative lays out a formidable agenda of principles, methods and recommendations that reflect the paucity of effort to date.  Forged from a year of international inquiry the picture is unsurprisingly a ‘variegated’ one, so gradualism, flexibility and strategy are the order of the day.  Even if the vision is far from incremental: a ’global cultural citizenship’ of rights and responsibilities.

The report is at heart a pitch for resources and instruments.  But it is refreshing to see the spotlight hover on key issues such as: the negative aspects of stringent visa restrictions; the need to engage young people in cultural relations; and the place-shaping potential of international links for both cities and towns.  The idea of working through local NGO’s and public bodies will, no doubt, have a mixed reception, although NGO voices outweigh practitioners at the international level.  The paper also appears to be coy when it comes to the purposes of cultural diplomacy. After all the Creative Europe programme is already in pursuit of the intercultural and transnational co-operation agenda.

A family of pilot projects is proposed.  They are in the right ‘territory’ but may need more thought.  For example, a ‘city-to-city’ cooperation programme excludes the towns and areas now in most need of the benefits of international markets and collaboration.  The EU Film Festival Scheme probably needs to be less prescriptive to allow niche festivals to flourish.

But, this initiative is overdue.  Perhaps culture’s contribution to political stability and trade will now be taken less for granted.  The conference discussion paper can be found here: http://cultureinexternalrelations.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Conference-Discussion-Paper-01042014.pdf

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