If you live on Planet Earth in the 21st Century, you might have realized that culture has become an increasingly essential part of the EU’s international relations. But, when and how did the European approach start?
In the past years, the Council of the European Union has adopted conclusions on culture in the context of the EU’s external relations. These conclusions provided guidance for the EU’s strategic approach in the field of international cultural relations, with a great differential: an approach that involves a bottom-up perspective, where multiple stakeholders and diverse voices are involved.
Easier said than done, right? Not in that case. To take work forward, the Council has agreed to set up a working group to team up and develop an overall EU strategic approach in the field of international cultural relations. This work has delivered the EU strategic approach to international cultural relations with a main implementing tool the Cultural Diplomacy Platform – today our Cultural Relations Platform – created in 2016 to help promote EU cultural cooperation with third countries.
The initiative had a specific goal towards cultural diplomacy and cultural relations related to the interest and support needed by the EU delegations as well as headquarters in Brussels. There was – indeed – an interest in deep and long-lasting engagement through cultural activities, initiatives and projects, cultural and creative industries exchanges being one of its important aspects (but not only). Bearing that in mind and with the awareness of the world’s global challenges, the flagship training programme for cultural professionals from around the world was created: the Global Cultural Leadership Programme (GCLP), which is, since 2020, the Global Cultural Relations Programme (GCRP) mirroring a slight change in the learning approach focusing on building strong relationships and peer to peer learning.
With an innovative approach, the main idea of the Global Cultural Relations Programme (GCRP) is to develop participants’ skills and supports them to engage in international cultural relations through tailored peer-to-peer learning, cross-cultural collaboration and global networking. The programme took place (at the time as GCLP) in Valletta (Malta) in 2016, Athens (Greece) in 2017, Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in 2018 and Brussels (Belgium) in 2019. Because of the pandemic of Covid-19, it was paused in 2020 and held as the first online edition (GCRP) in 2021. This year, our participants will be happy to be back in person, meeting face-to-face in Istanbul (Turkey) as the tide of cultural diversity reaches Europe and resonates in Asia on both sides of the Bosphorus.
The assessment of culture is usually addressed within a traditional approach by international institutions. The GCRP is different. It was designed to be co-created, flexible and outside the box. A programme that offers the resources, for the participants themselves to facilitate their cooperation on initiatives of their choice and foster dialogue and learning across borders and various cultural fields. The story behind the GCRP reveals the ideals behind the creation of our Cultural Relations Platform and shows that cross-cultural peer-to-peer learning has the capacity to reach young people, non-elites, and audiences completely outside the traditional circuit. The GCRP makes clear that building bridges is something permanent and that cultural distance only happens to those who isolate themselves on their own.