Culture has been increasingly recognised in diplomatic relations as a ‘soft power’ for its capacity to establish relations and contacts including with third countries where ‘hard policies’ could not deliver. Culture has a substantial capacity to reinforce foreign policy by contributing to the building of long-term relationships based on people-to-people exchange, mutual understanding, trust and credibility. At an EU level, the European Commission proposed to explore the role of culture in the Union’s International Relations for the first time in 2007, through the European Agenda for Culture. Since then, the Council has addressed this topic continuously and through different angles, mainly through its Work Plans for Culture. However, a strategic approach at an EU level was missing. In June 2016, the Commission and the European External Action Service adopted a Joint Communication where a strategic approach to culture in the EU’s external relations was outlined. The European Parliament has also been interested in this topic, with a report on the cultural dimensions of the EU’s external actions having been adopted in 2011. The European Parliament, through its Culture and Education Committee and its Foreign Affairs Committee, is currently also working on a Joint Report Towards an EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations.
To provide a forum for EU Member States’ Culture and Foreign Affairs Ministries as well as key cultural stakeholders, to engage in a debate on a strategic approach to International cultural relations which may serve to provide impetus and added value to EU and Member States’ action in this field against a backdrop of new technologies, security challenges and migratory patterns. The intention is to focus on themes pertaining to culture as a pillar for sustainable socio-economic growth; intercultural dialogue and safeguarding cultural heritage within a framework that fosters cross-sectoral cooperation, cultural diversity, sustainability, mutual respect and complementarity.