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Cultural policy in shaping the image of the European Union

Abstract: In contemporary world politics the factor of culture has become highly influential. Due to this fact the states pay more and more attention to cultural policy, since export, distribution and promotion of national culture proved to be a very effective to reach national goals and shape the country’s image. As for the EU, due to the complexity its formation this is a special case. The

European Union has a difficult task to present itself as united, but connecting different “elements” with their own culture, history and social structure. Cultural diplomacy makes a great deal in this process. It has the ability to unite Europeans, build common European identity and promote the advantages of being EU-citizen. Also it promotes the positive respectful image of the United Europe on the international level that is highly important for any entity, since the capacity to address the competitive challenges, the success of foreign policy, the development of trade and economic relations, touristic and educational attractiveness, internal political processes depend on how this entity is perceived by others in the world.


Keywords: Cultural policy, soft power, national image, the United Europe.

Cultural exchange has been intertwined with the pursuit of foreign relations throughout history. Nowadays the factor of culture as a component of “soft power” in world politics acquires a new importance, seriously increasing its influence on the global socio- economic processes and international relations. In this regard, states focus it on their cultural policy that cause increased use of the term “foreign cultural policy.” Export, distribution and promotion of national culture became a very effective tool of diplomacy in the struggle for national interests of a state.


There is no single opinion concerning the term “foreign cultural policy”. Anglo-American politicians and scientists prefer to use the terms “cultural and public diplomacy” instead. German scientists reject the term “cultural diplomacy” insisting that only foreign cultural policy can be designed to achieve political objectives and promotional purposes. In France, alongside several of the terms are used «action culturelle exterieure» (website of the Foreign Ministry), «politique culturelle exterieure», «diplomatie culturelle» (in scientific literature). In the Russian science the concept of “cultural diplomacy” and “foreign cultural policy” are equal (A. Golubev)[2, p.34]. Never the less according to Russian school, cultural diplomacy is an important instrument of foreign policy, including in the field of culture; it’s the work of diplomats in culture, whereas in the implementation of foreign cultural policy may involve a variety of ministries and departments.


Despite some scientific controversy American science gives a good definition of the term cultural diplomacy that could be applied to foreign cultural policy. Cultural diplomacy is described as “the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples to foster mutual understanding” [6, p.18]. Culture includes literature, the arts in general, customs, habits and traditions, humans’ behavior, history, music, folklore, gestures, and social relationships. [9] Cultural diplomacy is in essence the mobilization of what Joseph Nye referred to as “soft power” [8, p. 75-83, 8]. In Nye’s words, soft power “rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others”. [7, p.5] Nye stipulates that “the soft power of a country rests primarily on three sources: its culture…, its political values…and its foreign policies…” [Ibid] When a country’s culture includes universal values and interests other share, it increases the probability of obtaining its desired outcomes because of the relationship of attraction and duty that it creates [Ibid]. Cultural diplomacy is essentially a two-way communications process that involves efforts to promote a nation’s image and values amongst other foreign audiences as well as to try to understand the culture, values, and images of other countries and their people. Cultural diplomacy is a means through which governments can increase respect and understanding of themselves amongst other countries in the world.

Проектирование отопления частного дома цена проект отопления дома заказать по выгодным ценам. Шахматы онлаи играть с компьютером и игроками шахматы онлайн с реальными игроками.


According to Russian school under foreign cultural policy should be understood a set of activities undertaken by the state at the foreign policy level in order to achieve certain interests and to shape a positive foreign image of this state [1, p.45]. Russian scientist E. Galumov describes the foreign country’s image as a set of objective, inter-related characteristics of the state system (economics, geography, demographics, culture, etc), development of the state as a complex, multi-faceted device subsystem of the world, the efficiency of interaction of links which determines the trend of socio- economic, socio- political, national and other processes in the country.


It should be mentioned that creating the image of state outside and inside the country are interconnected. No state with negative image among its population will position itself as respectful country on international level. The process of shaping the image of the EU is a complicated thing due to the complexity this formation. It’s a supernational entity — neither state nor international organization — that has the motto “united in diversity”. As the result the European Union set itself a difficult task to position this entity as united, but connecting different “elements” with their own culture, history and social structure. Moreover shaping the image of the EU faces three levels: inner the member countries, among member states and the international level implying the representation of the EU in the world as an entity that speaks in a single voice. The great role in this complicated deal plays the intercultural communication and cultural diplomacy, though Europeans understood this not at once.


Culture has never been at the core of European integration. While economic, legal and political integration of the countries of Europe has a history of around fifty years by now, the first cultural aspects of the cooperation among the member countries of the (then so called) European Economic Community could only be observed in the 1970s [3]. Jean Monnet himself recognized the mistake. Looking back at the history of European integration he once said that “If we were to do it all again we would start with culture” [10, p.779-799]. The culture exactly should play a greater role in European integration and it should be more closely connected to the core areas of economic, legal and political cooperation.


We can emphasize two steps of the EU-cultural policy evaluation. The first one took the beginning in the 70s that comes with oil crisis and the first enlargement. In 1973 member states signed the Declaration on the European Identity which underlines they share “the same attitudes to life, based on a determination to build a society which measures up to the need of the individual.”[3] In 1975 the Tindemanns Report declared a need for a policy to transform the ‘technocrats’ Europe’ into a ‘People’s Europe.’ [3] As a result, in the late 1970s, the European Commission with the support of the European Parliament started to develop a cultural policy. In 1984 the European Council set up a Committee for a People’s Europe to work out measures of strengthening the European identity and improving the image of the Community. The Committee in 1985 produced two substantial reports (the Adonnino Reports) designing measures which indeed were important steps towards making Europe relevant and visible for the individual and constituted the first significant elements of a European cultural policy. [3]


The first report concentrated on practical measures to promote the positive impacts of integration on people’s life (system for recognition of diplomas, simplification of border controls, duty free allowances etc.). The second report advocated cooperation between member states in the field of culture, communication and information (cultural exchanges, town twining schemes and youth programs). The report also contained the plans for the symbolic tools of creating a European identity: a European flag, a European anthem and other European emblems (including, for example, postage stamps). However, the reports stopped short of devising a coherent cultural policy.


The proposals of Adonnio reports started to be implemented with a “Working Program for the Creation of a People’s Europe”.

The blue flag with twelve yellow stars (already used by the Council of Europe) was adopted as official flag of the EC. Twelve was a symbol of perfection and plenitude, associated equally with the apostles, the sons of Jacob, the tables of the Roman legislator, the labours of Hercules, the hours of the day, the months of the year, or the signs of the Zodiac. Lastly, the circular layout denoted union. [4, p.10]

Beethoven’s Ode to Joy became the anthem of Europe.

European passports, driving licenses and number plates were introduced.

A European ritual calendar was created (with ‘European Cultural months’ and May 9 as the official Europe Day).

The Eurovision song contest was launched,

European postage stamps printed and European sporting events initiated.

European cities started to be designated as ‘Cultural Capitals of Europe.’

The creation of a ‘European Cultural Area’ was also to be served by promoting educational exchanges, the translation of literary works, and town twining schemes.[3]

Thus, with the use of visual and audio symbols the idea of the United Europe took the step for becoming a brand on the international level. On top of that, common documents, holidays, cultural events played the role of making the citizens of the EU to feel themselves as the parts of one united community. On another hand, such things as flag, anthem, passport, postage stamps have always been the tools of national identity producing process. The fact of using the same tools of uniting population on the supranational level implicitly calls into question sovereignty and legitimacy of the Member States.


The next crucial stage in the integration process came in the early 1990s with the Maastricht Treaty. It was the first to institute cultural policy as an official EU policy, by codifying a separate title on culture and by including among the objectives of the Community the stipulation that the Community should contribute to the promotion of culture of the member states. The treaty says: “The Community shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore.” [5] The EU-level cultural policy is limited to encouraging cooperation between member states, and “if necessary supporting and supplementing their action.” [5]


A few words should be said about information policy as an area of EU ‘cultural action’. The Commission spends considerable sums of money each year hiring professional advertising agencies to bolster its image and devise ways of selling the Community to the public. A striking example of this was the 1993 de Clercq Report [4, p.15]. The Report’s message was that European identity must be ‘ingrained in people’s minds’ as a ‘good product’ using marketing techniques (de Clercq 1993: 2) and that certain social categories, particularly ‘women and youth’ , should become ‘priority target groups’. Among its other recommendations were the creation of a centralized Office of Communications (‘to ensure that the Community speaks with one voice’ (p.48)), a ‘European library and museum’ (p.27), a European ‘Order of Merit’ (p.34), and ‘personalised certificates awarded to all newly-born babies attesting their birth as citizens of the European Union’ (p.40). In addition to these measures, the report called for new slogans to reinforce the European message and identity (e.g. A Better Tomorrow; ‘Together’ ; and Progress, Prosperity, Protection and Peace’), and the adoption of a new Latin motto, ‘in uno plures’ (‘many in one’) — a move intended to contrast the EU’s emphasis on the plurality and diversity of Europe’s cultures with the US motto ‘e pluribus unum’ (‘out of many one’), which sums up the American ‘melting-pot’ approach to the construction of identity. However, if this initiative was intended to improve public relations, it was badly misconceived. When the report was unveiled at a press conference in Brussels on 31 March 1993 it provoked an angry demonstration and mass walk-out by journalists many of whom wrote damning reports accusing the Commission of behaving like a military dictatorship — precisely the sort of image problem and negative publicity the report was supposed to counter.


All the steps undertaken are clearly positive move that after the initial decades of total silence on the role of culture in European integration. The culture truly has the potential to narrow the gap between European societies and the process of integration. However still, European identity is in conflict with national identities. It’s important that European cultural policy should not try to create an illusionary homogeneity. Rather it should emphasize the multiplicity and the continuous transformation of identities. Cultural cooperation and common creation — which receive a welcome emphasis in recent European cultural action programs — are the best ways to transform and enrich identities and to build down walls between national cultures. Thus cultural policy form the positive image of the United Europe among Member States: through overcoming the conflict of identities it promotes the attractiveness of being united.


As for international level of shaping the image of the EU we would like to refer to the criteria of successful positive image-building. Firstly, it’s the stability of social and political life. Secondly, the state should be developed economically and attractive for investors. Thirdly, striving for intercultural dialogue inside the country is highly appreciated. Finally, the ability of solving problems without confrontation is also contributes to positive image of the state. The list of conditions for creating positive state image can be bigger, but we stop on the mentioned above. In all of these directions culture can play a decisive role.


In the first case, Europe nowadays faced the problem of increasing number of immigrants that cause ethnical conflicts and social instability. The situation worsens with the EU-enlargement when the entity has to accept new identities in its structure. Here culture can play an important role to ensure that the trend of increasing multiculturalism is not considered a threat, but rather an opportunity to celebrate diversity, to enhance self-respect and the respect and curiosity for others, to induce a culture of dialogue and cooperation. Culture provides a tool for mutual understanding between and within communities and thus an important means to fight against prejudice and xenophobia.


With case of economic development culture is intertwined with this sphere too. It is financially and socially worthwhile to invest in culture because it produces measurable benefits both in terms of GDP and employment. Statistics from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) of the United Nations demonstrate vividly that countries and regions that invest in enhancing the creativity of their citizens gain in terms of economic growth. Cultural innovation and creative industries are among the best tools to become competitive. Creative industries involve diverse areas such as cultural tourism, the media and entertainment industries, software development, fashion design — all of them among the most dynamic branches of global economy in the 21st century.

As for the third contribution, the intercultural dialogue must be advanced at multiple levels: 1. within multicultural societies and localities resulting from migration and mobility; 2.between societies of the old and new member states; 3. between societies of EU-members, prospective members and non-members (especially new neighbour countries); 4.intercontinentally, between Europe, America and Asia as well. The objective is the recognition, appreciation and promotion of diversity: the diversity of cultures and cultural performances.


The last contribution is connected with peaceful relations with other countries. This underlines the important security aspect of cultural cooperation. Cultural ties help to build dialogue and trust, curb prejudices and negative stereotypes, and thus contribute to peaceful relations and stability. Cultural cooperation should therefore play a greater role as an instrument of the EU’s neighbourhood policy and its strategy of further enlargement and it should both precede and accompany political and economic integration.


Thus, cultural policy has not only the ability to unite Europeans, build common European identity and promote the advantages of being EU-citizen, but also support the positive respectful image of the United Europe on the international level. The importance of last ability underlines the fact that the place of any entity in the world, its capacity to address the competitive challenges, the success of foreign policy, the development of trade and economic relations, touristic and educational attractiveness, internal political processes depend on how this entity is perceived by others in the world. The image of Europe has always been associated with success and high quality of life and level of development. Contemporary leading countries are also mostly European. However the crucial point is that the states of Europe has respectful image in the world separately, but it’s more difficult to convince the world that the United Europe speaks in a single voice, because European community still has difficulties with building its unity. Never the less, there is a power that could overcome all of them that’s called cultural policy.





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5. Maastricht Treaty. 1992/ www.eurotreaties.com/maastrichteu.pdf;

6. Milton C. Cummings. Cultural Diplomacy and the United States Government: a Survey. Center for its Arts and Culture, 2003;

7. Nye, Joseph. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, 5. Public Affairs, New York, 2004;

8. Ross, C. Public Diplomacy Comes of Age. The Washington Quarterly, 25(2), 2002;

9. Sztefka, B. A Case Study on the Teaching of Culture in a Foreign Language. Retrieved May 21, 2008 from http://www.beta-iatefl.hit.bg/pdfs/case_study.pdf;

10. Shore, Inventing the ‘People’s Europe’: Critical Approaches to European Community Cultural Policy, 1993.

Внешняя культурная политика