The EU’s international cultural strategy
Albeit Europe remains a contested identity marker, it is European ‘culture’ that sits at the pinnacle of this contestation. During times of crisis, cultural representations act as areas of semantic battles, for they substantiate, for a political project, its symbolic nucleus. For political elites, culture can be used as a scaffold to remould a common domestic ethos or to repair a damaged image abroad. For the purposes of international cultural policy, this reflection highlights both its opportunities and challenges. In its 2016 Global Strategy and the 2017 Draft Council conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations, the European Union (EU) connected the concept of culture to that of strategy. The EU’s strategy concerning cultural diplomacy makes use of the ideas of selection, prioritization and mobilization of cultural symbols, all in a context where the plurality of views prevails. In this article, we argue that the ‘strategizing’ of culture comprises at least a three-pronged act of programming, which includes: a) the field’s definition; b) the establishment of a network involving various societal and institutional actors (which is distinct from the act of mapping resources as well as institutional and cultural actors); and c) the priority accorded to global connections along thematic and/or geographical borders, and the appropriate distribution of resources. This chapter will consider the way in which the EU has interacted with these three elements.