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Article 167 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union defines the role of the European Union (EU) in the area of culture: it supports, coordinates or supplements the actions of member countries and seeks to bring Europe's common cultural heritage to the fore.

The EU supports actions to preserve cultural heritage, and promote cooperation and transnational exchanges between cultural institutions in member countries. A new funding programme ‘Creative Europe’ will run between 2014 and 2020. Other initiatives include Heritage Days (locally-based initiatives that allow access to sites not normally open to the public) and Capitals of Culture, both launched in 1985.

The EU also works with other international organisations to tackle issues like trafficking of cultural goods.