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Article 167 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) defines the role of the European Union (EU) in the area of culture. In this sector, the EU aims ‘to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States’, as set out in Article 6 TFEU .

Based on ‘drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe’, the objectives of the EU cultural policy are to ‘respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and […] ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced’ (Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union). The EU can also help the cultural and creative sectors recover in the event of a crisis and foster their resilience to make them more sustainable in the future.

While EU Member States are responsible for their own cultural policies, the EU helps them to address common challenges, ranging from the impact of digital technologies to supporting innovation in the cultural and creative sectors. 

The EU also supports actions to preserve cultural heritage and promotes cooperation and transnational exchanges between cultural institutions in the Member States. The cultural sectors can also benefit from specific funding opportunities under Horizon Europe, the Single Market Programme, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the cohesion policy funds.

The new funding programme Creative Europe (2021–2027) supports the cultural and creative sectors and cross-border cooperation and networking activities for all related sectors. Other initiatives include ‘Heritage Days’ and ‘Capitals of Culture’, both of which were launched in 1985.

In addition, the EU works with international organisations such as UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to tackle trafficking of cultural goods and promote local development through culture.