The proposed EU strategy for international cultural relations should enhance the role of the European Union on global stage, promote a distinctive and pluralist European cultural identity and help to seize the growth potential of cultural and creative industries. In an opinion adopted on 8 February, the European Committee of the Regions also welcomes the proposal to designate 2018 as European Year of Cultural Heritage.
The opinion prepared by Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EL/EPP), Governor of Central Macedonia, appreciates the recognition of culture and cultural heritage as instruments for local and regional development and urges Member States to speed up the adoption of the strategy with the aim of putting culture at the heart of the EU’s international relations. It points out the need for more specific targets and implementation deadlines, as well as the involvement of local and regional authorities in all phases.
“It is important to develop cultural diplomacy in the European Union and thus to enable it to compete with the new emerging powers at all levels on the world stage, including at the cultural level”, rapporteur Tzitzikostas said.
Recalling that cultural and creative sectors provide quality jobs and promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe, the Committee regrets recent budget cuts in the area of culture in many Member States,. “Spending in the field of culture is not a luxury but an investment. Strategic backing is needed for the growth potential of a sector that employs more than three million people and involves one million companies in Europe”, Mr Tzitzikostas said.
Furthermore, the opinion suggests that better knowledge of culture and Europe’s cultural heritage would contribute to better integration of migrants and refugees and to combat extremism and populism in Europe. Particularly important is to encourage the involvement of young people in the design and roll-out of inclusive cultural activities. Inter-university cooperation and mobility programmes, such as Erasmus+ which is celebrating its 30 years anniversary in 2017, facilitate the exchange of ideas independently of people’s cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds.