Culture and Development in the European Union's external policy

With the Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000 between the EU and the ACP countries, greater emphasis was put on culture, leading to a gradual integration of culture into the development agreements with these countries.1 The “EU Strategy for Africa: Towards a Euro-African pact to accelerate Africa’s development” of 2005 mentions the integration of the cultural dimension in development and the preservation of Africa’s cultural and linguistic heritage as official goals in the EU’s cooperation with Africa.2

The European Consensus on Development3 of 2005 marked the next step towards more discussion of culture in EU development cooperation, with social aspects such as culture included in this trend-setting declaration.

The 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, in force since March 2007, in the negotiation of which the EU took a leading role, is a key document in this context. The principles for promotion and protection of cultural expression set out in the Convention are seen as “a cornerstone of the relationships between the European Commission and the third countries on cultural matters.”4 It “stresses that cultural diversity is one of the main drivers of sustainable development for communities, emphasizing its importance for an integral realization of the human rights and fundamental liberties proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Furthermore, it “highlights the dual nature of culture as a value in its own right and as a tool for economic progress” and constitutes an international commitment to foster the development of cultural and creative expressions and activities.5

Building upon this Convention, and demonstrating a strong commitment to its implementation, in 2007 the EU drew up a European Agenda for Culture.6 This Agenda sets forth the first common cultural strategy for the EU. It maps out the EU’s way forward in promoting cultural diversity and taking advantage of the potential of culture in social and sustainable development, both within the EU and in cooperation with third countries. The Agenda provides strategic guidelines for EU policy development also in external relations and a number of positive developments have taken place in the external dimension.

In December 2007 DG EAC took the initiative of organising a seminar on the role of culture in external relations, focusing on the broader neighbourhood of the EU (ENP, Western Balkans, Turkey) bringing together DG RELEX, DG ELARG and civil society representatives engaged in these regions.7 The event gave an impetus for further reflection on how to reflect the importance of culture in policies and instrument, as well as on how to strengthen cooperation between Commission services taking also into account the contribution of civil society.

In the first half of 2008 the Slovenian Presidency made the external dimension of culture as priority (Declaration). With the support of DG EAC, they organised a conference in Ljubljana on 13-14 May 2008 – involving also civil society participants – focusing on the Western Balkans and the ENP region "New Paradigms, New Models – Culture in the EU External Relations".8 The event provided a good opportunity for foreign policy makers to exchange views with the cultural sector and deepen their understanding of the potential of cultural cooperation with regard to external relations objectives. The Presidency issued a Declaration9 containing the main messages emerged from the Conference, which was politically followed-up both in the Culture and General Affairs and External Relations Councils. Still under Slovenian Presidency the European Council of June 2008 also confirmed the importance of culture in the EU’s external relations.10

The French Presidency – in order to follow up these positive developments – has submitted draft Council Conclusions on the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue in the external relations of the Union and its Member States to the Cultural Affairs Committee, which were adopted by the Education, Youth and Culture Council on 20-21 November 2008.11

On the initiative of Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Luis Michel, an international colloquium entitled “Culture and Creativity: vectors for development” was held in April, 2009.12 As a result of the conference, the artists and cultural operators present adopted the Brussels Declaration, which “reinforces the role and the potential of culture as a driver for development.13 This declaration calls for increased commitment from civil society, ACP governments and the international community” and provides recommendations for governments, development partners and professionals working in the cultural field.

In the Brussels Declaration artists, professionals and culture entrepreneurs are making three key requests:

* first, that culture is the subject of public structural policies, at national, regional and international levels;
* then, that the cultural dimension is taken into account by other sectorial policies and defined in a integrated approach to development; and,
* finally, that artists and creators are fully recognised as actors in development and have a professional and social status adapted to their own context.14

The EC assistance often led to fragmentation into sub-sectors at country level.15 The European Commission will seek to further integrate culture in its development policies while emphasizing the key message that culture can be financed not only by establishing culture as a focal sector in the Indicative National Programmes (NIPs), but also by operating along horizontal cooperation lines.

During the Spanish presidency, an "International Seminar Culture and Development" was held in May 2010 in Girona. The Seminar encouraged the agents responsible for cooperation in partner and donor countries, and in International Organizations, to integrate culture in their development policies. The Seminar reviewed experiences reflecting that investing in culture is a way to attain diverse objectives in the fight against poverty, and will analyse a series of programmes and projects that can serve as a collection of "best practices".16

The Hungarian Presidency confirmed the role of culture for economic growth and job creation, especially to defeat economic crisis. The mediatory and conciliatory role of culture was included in the agenda of the meeting of senior executives of the EU Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Ministries of Culture, held in Pécs between in June 2011.17 The Hungarian Presidency created a network of national contact points for cultural diplomacy within the EU. As a preparation for the Pécs meeting, a mapping existing best practices and the EU’s potential opportunities in terms of external relations was done.18

11 Article 27 of the Cotonou Agreement “Cooperation in the area of culture shall aim at: (a) integrating the cultural dimension at all levels of development cooperation; (b) recognizing, preserving and promoting cultural values and identities to enable inter-cultural dialogue; (c) recognizing, preserving and promoting the value of cultural heritage; supporting the development of capacity in this sector; and (d) developing cultural industries and enhancing market access opportunities for cultural goods and services.” where/acp/overview/cotonou-agreement/index_en.htm
2 See Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee – EU Strategy for Africa – Towards a Euro-African pact to accelerate Africa’s development {SEC(2005)1255}, /* COM/2005/0489 final,!celexplus!prod!DocNumber&lg=en&type_doc=COMfinal&an_doc=2005&nu_doc=489
4 Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, Culture and Development. Action and Impact (2011): New edition: Mediterranean Focus, Brussels, p. 12.
5 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Paris, 20 October 2005.
6 See
8 See
12 The event Website is still available at
13 Brussels Declaration by Artists and Culturals Professionals and Entrepreneurs, Brussels, 3rd April 2009,
14 Brussels Declaration, p.2.
15 See Impact Assessment, Commission Staff Working Paper SEC(2011) 1172 final, ,
16 The Girona Seminar 2010,
17 See
18 Culture in EU’s external relations Mapping existing tools, by Giorgio Ficcarelli, European Commission, Pecs 2010.