Despite positive signs of economic recovery in the last few years, Europe is still in crisis: turmoil in the Middle East, international terrorism, both refugee and economic migration pressures in the Mediterranean, the Brexit negotiation as well as rising populism mark this second decade of the new millennium. Policy makers, stakeholders and civil society have been arguing for quite some time that answers to be found do not lie simply in more economic growth or lower unemployment rates. Culture has an important role to play both internally and externally, helping improve social cohesion and strengthening the EU’s role in the world.
There has been a drive to bring cultural diplomacy to the forefront of European foreign policy for almost two decades. The European External Action Service and the European Commission issued a Joint Communication on 8 June 2016 entitled Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations which sets out a three pronged approach: supporting culture as an engine for sustainable social and economic development; promoting culture and intercultural dialogue for peaceful intercommunity relations; and reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage. The Council of Ministers had already welcomed this proposal and Culture Ministers are planning to adopt their formal Conclusions on 23 May 2017. The European Parliament’s report is expected for July, the European Economic and Social Committee’s Opinion for June, while the European Committee of the Regions already adopted its own in February 2017. Therefore the workshop came at an opportune time to review progress and to plan ahead.
This Policy Workshop developed in three panels, ending with a roundtable on how to implement the nascent strategy. After the keynote speech, the first panel discussed the role of culture in promoting socio-economic development in third countries. More specifically, we examined the role of cultural and creative industries as a motor for growth through the EU’s foreign and development policies. Session 2 looked at the role of cultural and religious diversity in international cultural relations and in connecting intra EU diversity with EU foreign policy. More specifically contributions to that panel examined how cultural diversity is incorporated in European cultural heritage, the migration heritage of Europe, and the role of migrants as pivotal actors in international cultural relations. Session 3 focused on the role of culture in EU diplomacy and critically analysed how we can envisage a multipolar world not only in economics or geopolitics but also in cultural relations.
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