The relationship between EUNIC and the National Institutes of Culture

Let us look at the opportunities and challenges that cooperation represents for national institutes for culture.

The advantages of cooperation between National Institutes for culture

The French, German and UK national institutes for culture are around one century old and have a massive global network. But the majority of the 36 members of the European Union Network of Institutes of Culture (EUNIC) are much younger. The collaboration with other institutes for culture is therefore an opportunity for them to benefit from their experience and network. Indeed, countries like Ireland or Romania do not have a colonial past, so they are less likely to be accused of having an imperialist agenda, and can bring a new perspective that can often ease relations. The mutual advantages for countries appear clear in the EUNIC clusters through which member states and third countries can develop projects and stimulate intercultural dialogue, going beyond the promotion of a specific national culture.

Challenges in the collaboration between National Institutes of Culture within EUNIC.

We can identify three key challenges:

• Brexit - As a result of the decision of the UK to pull out of the European Union, the position of the British Council within EUNIC is put into question. Indeed, the EUNIC requires that member organisations belong to EU member states. It is the first time that a country leaves the EU, which means that the situation is without precedent and all the more problematic because the British Council is one of the key players within the Network.

• Diverse institutional contexts - The EUNIC adjusts to the specificities of the institutional context of every EU member state. Regarding France, for example, the complexity of the organisational framework of its cultural diplomacy results in 3 different institutions being members of EUNIC: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Alliance Française and the Institut Français. Regarding Belgium, as cultural diplomacy is not a responsibility of the Federal State but of the linguistic communities, two institutions are members of EUNIC: Wallonie-Bruxelles International, and the Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs.

• Autonomy - There are always debates and discussions regarding the relations between national institutes of culture and the state. Some argue that in order to develop intercultural relations, national institutes for culture should be independent from their state. A good example of this model is the Goethe Institute. Others argue that the absence of organic links with the state does not necessarily guaranty autonomy, and that one should rather look at the practice of the cultural diplomacy in order to evaluate the level of independence towards national interests.

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