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The next steps of the EU’s cultural diplomacy strategy

Tamas Szucs and Silvio Gonzato, from the European Commission, tell us what they think will be the main challenges for a European cultural diplomacy.
The 2016 strategy actually established a very solid framework for European cultural diplomacy. The recently adopted new European agenda for culture, which was just adopted a few days ago, actually confirmed the importance of this dossier, Cultural Diplomacy. And now the biggest task I think ahead is clearly the implementation, the delivery on all the proposals that have been made. Just to name, perhaps the most important ones, there is an obvious need to strengthen civil society through culture in the Mediterranean and the North African regions and in fact that in many other regions in the world where it is relevant. We also need to deliver basically, assistance to the creative and cultural sectors in the Western Balkan region.
We also need to develop regional strategies for cultural cooperation in Latin America, in North Africa, in the Western Balkans, in some other regions. We need to continue and strengthen our dialogue with the key partner countries like China and Japan. Lastly, I think it’s very important to maintain the unified stance of the EU in these matters, and to use the combined weight of member states together, acting together skillfully, in a way to engage in real dialogues with our partner countries with an arms-length approach. Challenges and maybe also opportunities, because I always tend to reason more in terms of opportunities. We have an opportunity now to translate this narrative into action. And I think I see more and more of convergence.
As I said before, we work outside the EU. We are the external action service. We are the sort of diplomatic service of the EU. So we have embassies all over the world. And more and more, I see the interest and willingness of member states to work together with us in promoting cultural projects in countries around the globe. And we also see the willingness and interest of the European Union National Interest Institute for Culture to work more closely with the European Union. I was in New York a few weeks ago, where their institutes for culture work together to promote a European film festival around specific topics, which are topics which coincide with our policy objectives.
And suddenly culture becomes the vehicle to discuss issues which are important for us– issues relating to values or interests relating to challenges that we face together. So I see now the challenge and the opportunity is really to develop, in the different regions of the world, the Western Balkans, which remains a priority for us, or in the neighbourhood, whether it’s to the east or to the south, targeted, tailored strategies in order to develop the three strands of cultural diplomacy, as I mentioned them, i.e., you know, culture as a vehicle for intercultural dialogue, peaceful relations, culture as an economic and social development and engine, and also the whole dimension relating to cultural heritage.
Which, again, I think it’s a powerful message when you see the European Union working hand-in-hand with local authorities, trying to breathe new life into monuments or other aspects of their cultural heritage. It’s not only material heritage, it’s also immaterial. It can be a language. It can be folklore. It can be a language. It really shows that we respect that nation. It shows that we see them as partners. We don’t see it in a sort of relation of us teaching them what to do, but us and them being in a process of mutual learning, mutual understanding, and mutual respect.

Tamas Szucs and Silvio Gonzato, from the European Commission, tell us what they think will be the main challenges for a European cultural diplomacy in the coming decade.

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Cultural Diplomacy

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