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International cultural relations — an EU strategy



Joint Communication (JOIN (2016)29 final) — international cultural cooperation strategy

Article 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)


  • The communication proposes a strategy for more effective international cultural relations, (i.e. the exchange of ideas, views and opinions between different cultures) to support the European Commission priority to make the EU a stronger global participant, a better international partner and a more important contributor to sustainable growth.
  • It puts forward a model for cultural cooperation between EU countries, national cultural organisations, and private and public bodies using ‘cultural diplomacy’ to promote a global order based on peace, the rule of law, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values.
  • Although culture policy is primarily a matter for EU countries themselves, Article 6 TFEU states that the EU can play a part in supporting, coordinating and supplementing EU countries’ activities in the field.


Culture is not just about the arts or literature. It spans a wide range of activities, from inter-cultural dialogue* to tourism, from education and research to the creative industries, from protecting heritage to promoting new technologies, and from artisanship to development cooperation.

It also plays an important role in EU foreign policy where cultural cooperation counters stereotypes and prejudice, and dialogue can prevent conflicts and foster reconciliation. It helps in responding to global challenges such as integrating refugees, countering violent radicalisation and protecting the world’s cultural heritage.

Culture can also be a tool to deliver important social and economic benefits, such as citizen participation and tourism revenues, both within and outside the EU.

The strategy builds upon and updates previous communications on culture and the EU's international relations and culture's role in EU development cooperation, and focuses on strengthening cultural cooperation in 3 main areas:

  • Driving sustainable social and economic development, by strengthening cultural and creative industries and supporting the role of local authorities. Examples of this in action are:
  • Promoting peaceful relations between communities and peoples with diverse religious beliefs. Dialogue can help promote fair, peaceful, inclusive societies that respect human rights and take account of local sensitivities, with action tailored to particular cultural contexts and interests. This includes:
  • Improving cooperation on cultural heritage, by promoting research, combating illicit trafficking in cultural goods, and supporting the protection of heritage sites. Rehabilitating and promoting cultural heritage attracts tourism and boosts economic growth. Examples include:
    • research under Horizon 2020 to find new ways to preserve and manage cultural heritage threatened by climate change and in which non-EU countries can participate;
    • combating trafficking of heritage, including support for training customs officers at border controls to aid the early detection of stolen artefacts;
    • working with UNESCO to set up a rapid reaction mechanism for the protection of cultural heritage sites. The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis will also contribute to protecting cultural heritage and promoting cultural diversity.

EU cooperation on culture encompasses both EU and developing countries and can be enhanced by:

  • pooling resources and working together in non-EU countries;
  • better cooperation with national cultural institutes within the EU;
  • making increased use of EU embassies in non-EU countries (delegations);
  • establishing European culture houses, designed to provide services to the local population, engage in joint projects and offer scholarships, and cultural and educational exchanges;
  • joint EU cultural events;
  • focus on strategic international partners;
  • exchanges of students, researchers and alumni between EU and non-EU countries.

This cultural strategy can be promoted making use of existing resources, such as:



Inter-cultural dialogue: the exchange of ideas, views and opinions between different cultures.


Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council: Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations (JOIN(2016) 29 final, 8.6.2016)

Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part One — Principles — Title I — Categories and areas of Union competence — Article 6 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 52–53)


Council Conclusions on culture in the EU’s external relations with a focus on culture in development cooperation (OJ C 417, 15.12.2015, pp. 41-43)

Conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue in the external relations of the Union and its Member States (OJ C 320, 16.12.2008, pp. 10-12)

last update 17.07.2017