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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds A certain urban legend has it that Jean Monnet, the grandfather of the European integration process, would have said once, “If I were to do it again, I would start with culture.” This mythical anecdote circulates in many texts on the European integration process as evidence of the possibly important contribution of culture to Europeanization and the creation of that wonderful species of being, Europeans– or at least people who might identify themselves with the European integration project. The domain of culture was initially not part of the European integration process.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds However, the cultural domain, the arts, the entertainment industries, and cultural heritage, has become a full-fledged policy area in the European Union during the past couple of decades with a budget and programs of its own. Because cultural artifacts and practices are the results of us humans reflecting on what it means to be human in a particular context, and because such artifacts and practices offer an opportunity for people to interact with each other, it comes as no surprise that much thinking about who we are happens through and with culture. Artists and cultural commentators reflect, some more critically than others, on these social political processes through their own creative and sometimes subversive responses to these social construction processes of communities and the social.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds We will consider some of these responses later in this week’s course. Those who participate with us in sociocultural activities are considered part of our group, and we use aesthetic artifacts and cultural practices to reflect on our social experiences as members of these groups and categories. In other words, cultural artifacts, activities, and practices can all be considered as instruments to conduct border controlling with, implicit processes of defining and confirming or challenging who is in and who is outside a social grouping, and what these group identification criteria are.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds The changing position of culture as a policy field to promote European integration denotes growing awareness among policymakers, bureaucrats, and politicians of the important role that culture and the arts play in this identity construction process. Thus, one finds that the role of culture has become explicitly mentioned in the context of the European Union as part of the discourse on the construction of a European identity. Already in 1973, at the summit conference in Copenhagen a statement on European identity was drafted stating how important it was to defend the cultural richness and diversity among European nations in an effort to create a European identity based on a not clearly defined, shared common heritage.

Skip to 3 minutes and 10 seconds This new category of identity “subsumes the categories of ethnic and national identity, cutting, as it does, across national boundaries to become productive as a category of collective identity locally, regionally, and/or transnationally,” as the Finnish scholar at Erkki Sevanen has formulated it. While various programs and initiatives were developed during the 1980s, it was the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 which explicitly gave recognition in Article 151 to the role of culture as policy area in Europe. Member states now had the obligation to contribute to the flowering of cultures while the community would support actions to improve knowledge and dissemination of culture and history of European people to safeguard cultural heritage and to participate in noncommercial cultural exchange.

Skip to 4 minutes and 4 seconds The growing importance of culture as an often urban tool for economic activity and growth is encapsulated in the joining together of creativity and economic activities under one label as the creative industries. In Europe, one currently can see clearly the intertwining of cultural activities, identity politics deployed through culture and the economy in the European Union’s current cultural policy, Creative Europe, which runs from 2014 until 2020. A bit later on in this week’s course, we will look at one program within Creative Europe, the Cultural Capital of Europe Project. But first, let’s turn our attention to a very important and interesting medium of identity, namely language.

Europe as a cultural project

The EU has not always been the way it is now: we tend to think of the European Union as a political project, born out of the wish for peace in Europe after the Second World War. Although this history cannot be denied, culture has in the last forty years become part of EU policy making.

On 14 December 1973, the recently enlarged European Community - Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom had joined on 1 January of that year - published the Copenhagen Declaration on European Identity. From that moment on, the idea of a European identity in the context of the EC was developed. From that moment on, Europe’s political and economic cooperation and integration also started to touch upon more intangible notions such as identity and, indeed, culture.

In 1985, the EC developed the European Capitals of Culture programme to highlight the richness and diversity of European culture. However, it was only in 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty was drafted, that culture explicitly became a policy area of the EU.

This is one of the ways in which the borders of the idea of Europe have changed over the years.

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European Culture and Politics

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