To contribute to a Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy, the CPDN prepared a position paper on “Culture in EU External Relations – for an Ambitious and Autonomous Creative Diplomacy”. CPDN believes that a foreign affairs and security policy strategy that integrates culture will contribute to the development of a stronger Europe. We believe in a stronger Union capable to work for an alliance of civilisations respectful of world cultures and taking leadership or responsibility in enabling the expressions of cultural diversity worldwide whilst enhancing Europe’s image and standing in the world. CPDN wishes to contribute to a strategy that nurtures the ambition of strategic autonomy for the European Union.

1. Who are we?

The Cultural Policy Designer Network (CPDN) brings together independent European cultural policy experts. We provide a collaborative platform for high quality advice, strategic planning and project implementation in the cultural and creative sectors alongside local and international policy-makers and all other interested stakeholders. Currently, CPDN counts 32 cultural policy specialists from 20 countries.

Members of the CPDN have considerable experience advising public authorities on cultural policy throughout the world. This includes work in cultural diplomacy and culture in development. We bring together high-level experts from across Europe with experience and knowledge in the cultural and creative sectors. Furthermore, we are all convinced Europeans. We care for the European integration project and its values. We believe in the advancement of society through the arts, culture and creativity.

CPDN wishes to contribute to a strategy that nurtures the ambition of strategic autonomy for the European Union. We believe in a stronger Union capable to work for an alliance of civilisations respectful of world cultures and taking leadership in enabling the expressions of cultural diversity worldwide. We consider that Europe’s experience in managing diversity, whilst a daily challenge, gives European governments a special responsibility to build a stronger Union and to help the setting up of a more harmonious international order.

The EU’s diplomatic network covers all corners of the globe. Economically, the EU is the first trading partner and the first foreign investor for almost every country in the globe. The EU is the largest investor in development cooperation than the rest of the world combined. Culturally, Europe is a creative continent, with a long history of cultural policy and known globally for its fashion designers, architects, chefs, musicians, writers, cinematographers, painters and poets. Such talent makes our world rich in ideas, creation and beauty. Culture and heritage make Europe and its cities among the most attractive touristic and learning destinations. The world regards Europe with respect for its cultural institutions and its legal and educational ecosystem which fosters creativity. Cultural workers contribute to project the ideals and values of Europe globally. They help build mutual understanding and trust through cultural and trade exchanges. Europe is not a means to an end, but it is a way of life.

The EU has taken recently a number of steps to integrate culture in its foreign and security policy. In 2016, the European Commission launched the Cultural Diplomacy Platform to support the EU institutions in the implementation of a new ‘EU Strategy for international cultural relations’ with a view to advise on the EU external cultural relations. In parallel, the national institutes for culture gathered under the EUNIC umbrella co-funded by the European Commission since 2014 became privilege partner of the European institutions to support the EU ‘s nascent cultural diplomacy as from 2016.

CPDN believes that a foreign affairs and security policy strategy that integrate culture will contribute to the development of a stronger Europe. It aims to make available its expertise to reinforce the EU’s strategic autonomy to build peace, security, promote human rights and a sustainable prosperity.

2. How can culture help a stronger Europe?

CPDN believes that a culture strategy in foreign affairs would help:

  • Enhance Europe’s image and standing in the world

  • Increase mutual understanding in the world

2.1. Europe’s image and standing in the world

To strengthen its position, Europe needs to be liked and appreciated. The continent is perceived as ‘old’, a perfect touristic destination, but not a place that matters to create, innovate or find opportunities. For the younger digitally-connected generation Europe is perceived as lagging behind in technology and digital innovation. They rarely get to see European movies or TV series, often absent from digital media. Europe’s achievement in non-technological innovation and its leadership in the creative economy as well as cultural/social entrepreneurship, its expertise in managing cultural institutions, creative hubs, and craftmanship are not sufficiently highlighted, whilst such expertise is prized by developing economies looking to support the emergence of a service-based industry.

Culture contributes to the building of the EU’s image abroad beyond its economic and trade power as a creative place. More importantly, it helps Europe export its values on quality of life (respecting environmentally friendly standards), freedom of expression, the rule of law, gender equality and LGBT rights, cultural diversity and tolerance. It promotes the EU as a community of diverse cultures and languages sharing essential common values. A better image – that is fun, modern, inclusive and inspirational – reinforces the European project and enhances EU’s influence in the world. It contributes to establish empathy for European citizens, institutions and enterprises. It makes Europe a compelling place, a place of ideals, of creative imagination, of cultural excellence and innovation, and thus a destination to visit, learn, invest or live.

2.2. Mutual understanding and empathy

Cultural exchanges and trade are key vectors to improve mutual understanding and social cohesion - both challenging national stereotypes and developing new relationships. It is important that external relations activities integrate better the cultural dimension not only to showcase Europe’s artistic achievement but to stimulate exchanges, dialogue with citizens, local industries and cultural institutions. It is about strengthening relations beyond security interests with a view to stimulate youth empowerment, artists’ mobility, entrepreneurship, growth, jobs in a cultural and creative sector that is naturally internationally connected. Europe should be instrumental in supporting cross-frontiers collaboration leading to social innovation addressing global issues (e.g. climate change, immigration, gender discrimination, integration, poverty). The EU should defend cultural diversity as a principle of its action and commitment. Its development policy should support the networking of cultural clusters and creative hubs worldwide, investing in the relation with creative people and cultural workers, who have a strong power of societal influence as trend setters.

Culture is at the forefront of the technological revolution and Europe, as a major producer of cultural content, has to be present in the virtual networking of citizens at global level. Foreign relations are taking place on interactive digital platforms as well as in embassies. Political upheavals have shown the participatory nature of foreign relations with citizens making use of technology tools to exchange essentially cultural content (information, images, music, ideas). This has to be integrated in EU policy and cultural actors are those who are best positioned to empower EU diplomacy in this respect.

3. A Way Forward

The world is changing and our cultural discourse has to change too. Culture is more than merely exhibitions, pilot projects, institutions and artists in residence. Culture is also economic and trade exchanges, it is driving social and technological innovation which are essential elements in today’s foreign relations. Culture is one of the main drivers of city and urban development throughout the world. Cultural investment is directly linked with urban planning, sustainable economic growth, creative and social entrepreneurship, innovation, social cohesion, education and health, and trade relations. Investing in culture makes a lot of diplomatic sense.

It is not enough to “open dialogues”. This smacks complacency and lack of imagination. Asia and America’s dominance should be liberating and give Europe the position of engaging citizens throughout the world in a disruptive way with all its creative capacity. Then the EU would not only celebrate its single currency or its trade or environmental successes, it would be proud of its ability to nurture aesthetic, creativity, talent, promote cultural diversity and solidarity. The EU would also stress its leadership in social economy, equitable trade, organic farming, design thinking, cultural management, etc. Europe would be reset as an object of desire, a matter of joy, elegance and tolerance.

Third countries are asking more of Europe, as the European continent is perceived as being exemplary in nurturing excellence, in valorising its heritage, and in enabling its creative forces, while at the same time remaining open to exchanges and guaranteeing freedom of expression. It is as much the cultural content produced in Europe that is in demand as the tools that Europe has put in place to support its diverse cultural expressions and identities. This is an opportunity for Europe.

With a view to better integrate culture in external relations’ strategy and build an autonomous capacity in external actions in the field of culture, the CPDN has two main proposals. These are born from the experience of CPDN members working in cultural policy and international cultural relations over many years and multiple territories:

    • Mobilisation and empowerment of cultural workers.

    • Building advisory capacity towards third countries on cultural policy issues.

3.1. Mobilise and empower cultural workers

This would include artists, creative professionals (designers, architects, etc.), cultural institutions (museums, national or local cultural centres etc.), foundations (private or public), universities, culture and creative businesses (music, games, audiovisual, design, fashion, publishing) and creative hubs. Cultural workers should be actively involved by other policy areas and encouraged to work across disciplines to be part of consultation processes and contribute a way forward by helping EU diplomatic effort in tackling world issues. The diplomatic world would be inspired by creative approaches to communicate, engage with citizens and enable exchanges in particular through the intermediation of digital networks and social media. Cultural workers would inspire EU Delegations on ways to reaching out to local population beyond diplomatic circles.

3.2. Build capacity to help third countries make the most of their cultural resources

CPDN believes in the need for the EU to build an independent capacity to advise third countries looking at developing a cultural policy to

  • Make the best use of local cultural resources and cultural institutions.

  • Protect and provide new visions to the cultural heritage (languages, architecture, crafts or traditions).

  • Nurture creativity and the emergence of local cultural and creative industries to sustain local economic development and social cohesion.

  • Help access EU funding that support economic and social development goals.

In line with the UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the promotion of diversity of cultural expressions, the goal is to:

  • build long-term partnerships to defend and promote cultural diversity and freedom of expression and ensure capacity of multilateral system to implement such principles;

  • advise against third countries’ cultural policy becoming a tool to promote jingoism, racism and xenophobia, and help countries address cultural minority or migration issues in accordance with international law and principles;

  • support artists’ mobility, cooperation and trade exchanges in the cultural field.

  • build local capacity to identify and implement policy measures required to protect heritage, to support the expression and distribution of local cultural and creative resources, and to help the development of a local cultural and creative industries;

  • help third countries’ cultural workers develop joint projects with their fellow Europeans to build networking capacity, including digital networking opportunities;

  • develop connections at local level with cities and local authorities which are the largest investors in culture as part of urban and regional development.

CPDN is ready and committed to working with the EU and Member States in shaping a more progressive and impactful approach to culture – for Europe and with the rest of the world.

On behalf of the CPDN,

Council of the Cultural Policy Designers Network