The need for real Cultural Cooperation
Thursday 13 April 2017

Cultural cooperation is a complex affair interpreted mainly as a special form of networking in support of the arts and culture. The tender by the European Commission in 2002 stressed the need to examine solely cultural cooperation agreements between various political bodies. The EFA/Interarts reply to the EU tender pointed out the formal side of cultural cooperation is all too often reduced to the promotion of images, national identity included. This applies as well to such efforts undertaken by particular territories e.g. South Eastern Europe or the Balkan countries. The problem with that tender was that it left out civic society, NGOs but also what differences exist between formal and informal networks e.g. World Poetry Movement connecting poetry festivals. Internationally speaking, the concept is equated with cultural diplomacy and intercultural dialogue. Usually cultural heritage ranks highest in the list of priorities. Cooperation includes as well national cultural institutes e.g. Goethe, British Council, Institute Francaise, Cervantes to share resources and represent Europe. In that multi-national context, cultural diversity has become a key term. Thus the tasks Europe faces are huge. As Culture Action Europe pointed out at their Rome 2017 reflections, upholding this shall become even more difficult in a Europe of different speeds.

Also the five doctrines of Juncker propose different forms of cooperation, but all have a key fault. Again culture is not mentioned. Culture Action Europe proposes, therefore, to add a sixth doctrine, so that reference to culture is not only made at symbolic level, but can become substantial by promoting human development. It risks that artistic contents are neglected. Repeatedly cooperation lags here behind professional staff and cultural managerial support requirements.
How then to increase the potentiality of the arts and cultural contents? Networks of museums or dance companies exist across Europe, and much has been achieved in the way of cooperation. Still, the innovative capacity has to be enhanced by new forms of cooperation which ought to observe five key guidelines:
  • By learning to use, but not abuse culture for economic development, the over dominance of the economic dimension can be avoided. It applies to the promotion of creative industries.
  • Encourage representation of culture in peripheral regions by enhancing both tangible and intangible cultural heritage and cooperation to safeguard territorial integrity. South Eastern Europe and other regions tend to much to image problems due to inferiority complexes.
  • Make cultural consensus be the basis of decision making, in order to advance in the sharing of cultural resources under the condition of mutual appreciation and recognition what each partner can give. In this process, artists and the cultural sector as such should have a voice.
  • Re-evaluate the role of culture and use artists to develop indicators as to measure impact upon employment, environment and democracy. Too often the arts can serve merely the elite while knowledge of conditions underlies a choice of ignorance working with disaggregate data,
  • Relate concrete needs to real constrains so as to connect Europe through culture in need to overcome losses and to distribute benefits of modern technologically induced developments to attain social-cultural cohesion. Globalisation and the digital age has altered the learning process so that losses can be dealt without loss of perceiving real benefits.
 A vision of a future Europe requires new models of cooperation capable of social and cultural innovation so as to adapt in time to real needs while opening up perspectives for collaboration.

About the author

Hatto Fischer, poet and philosopher, coordinator of the NGO Poiein kai Prattein has been involved with questions of culture in various ways: European projects, advisor for the Greens to the Cultural Committee in the European Parliament, study for the European Commission on how culture in Greece has been financed through the structural fund. Besides his own writings, he is engaged in dialogue with poets and coordinates the world wide Kids' Guernica - Guernica Youth movement with children and youth painting peace murals on a canvas having the same size as Picasso's Guernica (7,8 x 3,5 m). His latest research work has been on how Europe is connected through culture as exemplified by ECoCs since 1985.