At the occasion of the European Culture Forum from 19 to 20 April 2016 in Brussels, the Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini gave a speech on the importance of placing culture at the heart of Europe’s external action. Her speech was structured as follows:
1. Cultural and Foreign Relations
Cultures are diverse in Europe and they shall not be a reason for isolation. As Europe is “Greek and Jewish, Roman and Anglo-Saxon, Christian and Arab, Latin and Slavic, French and German, Mediterranean and Scandinavian, religious and secular”, we might as well peacefully co-habit than look at what can separate us. Culture should on the contrary be a vector of communication and exchanges. Therefore, it is paramount for culture to be in the heart of foreign relations within European countries, but also between Europe and the world.
2. Inter-cultural dialogue: dialogue among cultures is not just a matter for governments
Federica Mogherini mentioned that exchanges among cultures has defined EU’s new approach to its updated Neighbourhood policy. Only dialogues can enhance mutual understanding. For that matter, the EU aims at reinforcing the actions of Creative Europe in non-European regions, strengthening the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme II, as well as cooperating with the Anna Lindh Foundation. In order to sustain this momentum, the future generations will have an increased and more diverse access to Erasmus+ which has proven to be a great vector of cultural dialogue among the youth. Civil society is just as concerned and legitimate for inter-cultural dialogue as governments are through public/cultural diplomacy.
3. Culture for development and security
Because culture is a source of economic development, growth, jobs and can prevent violent extremism. According to Federica Mogherini, social cohesion and tolerance are the conditions for decent economic support, and vice-versa. Peace and economic development in Europe’s Neighbouring region is also important for Europe itself.
4. Cultural Heritage
As European cultures are diverse and ancient, Federica Mogherini was happy to announce that 2018 is to be the European Year for Cultural Heritage. The reconstitution and protection of our heritage show respect to the different identities that constitute Europe and its neighbouring regions. The EYCH 2018 will hopefully share Europe’s cultural wealth and heritage awareness, “to build a common future together”.
5. Implementation – Working together
Cultural diplomacy goes beyond simple discussions. It is also about actions, innovations and education. All European actors (governments, regions and cities, cultural institutes, civil society organisations, artists, scientists and performers) need to work together towards a same goal: protecting and increase the value of our heritage and put culture at the very heart of Europe’s external action. Hopefully this will prevent clash of civilisations, and work for an alliance of civilisations instead.