Triandafyllidou & Sz?cs (2017) viewed thatculture has a significant role in uniting the EU community despites crisis thathad affected the region such as the recent financial crises, the flight ofSyrian refugees and the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the union orBrexit.
They agreed that elements of culture could be implemented in recoveringrelations among the member states in addition Europe had experiences of usingcultural diplomacy in building their capacity to emerged as one of the globalpower. This has been demonstrated through the “Joint Communication Towards anEU Strategy” adopted in June 2016 by the European Commission (EU) and the EU’sHigh Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, which underlinedthree strategies namely; supporting culture as a tool in maintainingprogressive economic and social development; advocating intercultural forumsfor peaceful inter-society relations; and emphasizing cultural heritagecollaborations. DefiningCultural DiplomacyTriandafyllidou & Sz?cs’ defined culturaldiplomacy in two approaches. Traditionally, cultural diplomacy is perceived asa soft power mechanism adopted by state or international organizations inachieving foreign policy goals.
This mechanism involved cooperation andcollaboration among cultural agents such as the ministries, foundations,museum, artists and celebrities from various states and continents, inadvocating closer relations among nations, encompassing social and politicalinfluence, evolving geopolitical interests as well as strengthening tradepolicy. Technically, cultural diplomacy is a policy that fostered quality ofcommunal life, the arts, mutual capacity building, social unity and economicprogression. The international cultural relations aimed in bridging together nationalgovernments, international associations and civil society in an equal andmutually recognized arena for a constructive discussions, regardless of the disparityof power and socio-economic capabilities among nations and actors involved. CulturalDiplomacy: the EU’s ApproachThe authors further discussed that the EUembraced cultural diplomacy which is based on their hybrid definitions, thatcultural diplomacy supported the EU’s commitment towards a constructivedialogue with the third world nations in a mutual exchange and respectenvironment, besides being a tool for soft and smart power in increasing theEU’s presence and influence.
The EU’s approach on cultural diplomacy aimed tocall for partnerships between public and private institutions hence building aninteraction between national cultural ministries, local entrepreneurs,celebrities and cultural networks. It also emphasizes a ‘people-to-people’approach rather than applying a hard diplomacy at the inter-state level withthe goal to outreach third world nations through cultural appreciation oncreativity, excitement and expressions. This efforts was proven by the EuropeanCommission in initiating series of cultural pilot projects in the third worldnations by enhancing transnational relations that develops communal trust andavoiding social disintegration and radical movement among the nations, toimprove their relations with the EU. Therefore, both authors argued thatcultural diplomacy played crucial roles in supporting the EU’s development,trade, defense and security policies as well as an integral part in the EU’sstrategic foreign relations.
In order to develop a strong basis for cultural domain,the EU has to communicate directly to the cultural institutions, artists,museum curators, local authorities and non-governmental organizations (NGO),national agencies as well as extending good accords in regional andinternational level such as the Council of Europe and also the United NationsEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in attaining globalrecognition and influence. Maneuveringthe EU’s Cultural DiplomacyBoth Triandafyllidou & Sz?cs argued that stronginstruments for each and every mega plans and strategy should be tested inensuring its implementation could be sustained. They examined the roles of fourinstitutions namely the European Commission (EC), the European External ActionService (EEAS), the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the EuropeanUnion has their own political and judicial roles in driving the EU’s culturaldiplomacy and their activities are supported by participations of active stakeholders and civic community, andinteractions among these institutes are claimed to be free from any conflicts,despite national sensitivities and other limitations in finance and competency.
Under the EC there are three agencies namely the Directorate-General forEducation and Culture (EAC), the Directorate-General for InternationalCooperation and Development (DEVCO) and the Directorate-General forNeighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR), in which the DEVCO and theNEAR has the largest budget allocations. The three Directorate-Generals (DG) hasbeen collaborating closely with one and another as the EEAS are responsible forplanning actions, whereas the EAC take charge on drafting new regulations. Thesecollaborations are crucial to support financially towards each other’s rolesand actions in planning and delivering cultural diplomacy programs, such in thecase of large scale development project currently take place in Tunisia, strongpartnership between the DG DEVCO and DG NEAR together with contributions fromthe EEAS and the local EU Delegations is best illustrated the needs forstrategic communication between agencies. The EU is currently coming up withnegotiations for establishing the Multinational Financial Framework infinancing the strategies, in which the amount and financing instrument to be endorsedwill give a clear impact on moving forward the EU cultural diplomatic programsin achieving the region’s prominence in the race for soft and smart power. TheEuropean Public SpacesTriandafyllidou & Sz?cs further elaboratedthe EU initiative of establishing a common fora known as the European PublicSpaces, founded by the European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament in2007, which is one of the strategies in forging the EU international cultural relationsthrough organizing events by catching youths’ interests and participations. Itsnetworking encompasses 18 EU member states capitals and interested indeveloping engagements between the EU National Institute of Culture (EUNIC) andthe national governments, regional and local agencies, cultural institutes andstakeholders, and NGOs in each participating country.
This networking aremanaged by the EC and the EP in providing a space in organizing European ideasto support unity in diversity environment besides executing a unified Europeanvision. The authors discussed that the Public Spaces has transformed into realEuropean cultural hubs and impartial dialogue forums, that interacted Europeanmember states to develop an integrated European identity. In this Space, eventsand activities were organized by close collaborations among cultural partners,government agencies, embassies, universities and other European networks.
Besides that, the Space also aimed to attract youth involvement by engagingperformers, celebrities and musicians with a concrete circle of network andfans, as well as providing platforms for artisan community to express theircreativity and productions through the organizing film festivals, book fairs,cultural showcase, awards and other programs that could foster unity ofdiversified heritage and languages. Several occasions provided as example toproven initiatives propagated by the Space such as the European Research Night,Women’s Day, and proposal to establish Houses of European Spaces in the thirdworld nations in disseminating cultural diplomacy of the EU. Limitationsand OpportunitiesTriandafyllidou & Sz?cs underlined sixchallenges and opportunities in executing cultural diplomacy in the EU region.First is on coordination for participation of all state actors like regionaland local authorities, ministries and national cultural institutions, andnon-state actors such as celebrities, curators and associations, into allcultural programs and activities to avoid redundancy and duplication offunctions such as between the actions by the Council of Europe and the UNESCO.
Second is on the involvement of all cultural patrons in co-organizingactivities such as film festivals, arts exhibitions, and other culturalproducts and services in order to instill the sense of co-ownership of projectsand efforts. Thirdly, is the critical demand for security, education andinfrastructure that need to be addressed before possible engagement in culturalactivity could be manifested, in which some community are dependent on culturalindustries in order to be employed and improving their economy and lifestyle. Fourth,is the co-creation of common values for running development, mobility andexchange programs in order to achieve the same goals in promoting cultural diplomacyprograms. Fifth, is the diversifiedcountries that appreciates their native heritage as well as the culture ofother people such as diaspora or migrants, could contribute for success inachieving the EU strategies in the international cultural relations bydeveloping cultural project. Finally, is the issue of sustaining the progressof implementing cultural diplomacy, where cultural projects need to be run orrepeated within a given long-term time frame in order to reflect and measureits impacts on social relations and development, and targeted group should beinformed on the progress in order to increase their awareness and feedbacks onthe project’s impacts to the community. CommentsTriandafyllidou & Sz?cs tried to highlighton the challenges and opportunities faced by the EU in promoting and enhancingcultural diplomacy as one of the strategies to emerge as prominent regionalpower in the international relations.
The EU has a strong institutionalfundamental where the Union structures are supported by various agencies thatcollaborates among them in steering for cultural diplomacy implementation,besides the involvement of individual member states. But one concern raised bythe authors was on financial and competence limitation hence collaboration ofvarious agencies and bodies are relevant to co-funding those programs. The EUbelieved that cultural diplomacy could be instrumental to soft power by themeans of exchange of cultural elements and engaging the collaboration betweennational government and the non-state agents like celebrities, art performers,museum curators, cultural bodies and the mass people directly. Besides engagingrelevant institutions together, cultural diplomacy from the EU’s point of viewalso could improve social life, stimulating economic progression via tradingand exports, building trust as well as mutual respect and appreciates thediversified heritages, languages and practices. Bothauthors also underlined the role of the European Public Space in disseminatingcultural values and founding an equal, mutual arena for dialogues and forums,mobilizing youth participation and appreciates the works of art performers thatcan be translated into exhibitions, fairs, festivals and awards.
Thisinitiatives also helps in development programs in the third world countries asin this case in Tunisia. However, the authors did not provided as much examplesor occasions in detailed to illustrate the EU’s efforts and projects undertakento support the argument. In terms of challenges and opportunities, Triandafyllidou& Sz?cs suggested that proper coordination, involvement of allcontributors, and sustaining the projects are key challenges in ensuring theEU’s cultural diplomacy strategies to be achieved. However, the authors failedto present real case scenarios on these challenges took place instead ofproviding theoretical and descriptive elaborations. Alternatively, the authorsrecommended for the active roles by media and digital technologies not only tomobilize youth involvement but also to widely spread the EU’s plans andprojects. (1881 words)