European Cultural Diplomacy – a Coherent Message of Diversity

“Cultural diplomacy is an integral part of our common foreign policy” said Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (European Commission, 2016b).


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In March 2016 the EU has launched the cultural diplomacy platform to enhance the cultural dialogue with citizens abroad. This blog briefly examines the role of cultural diplomacy within the EEAS and argues that while for states a coherent national image is desirable, the EEAS cultural message especially draws from its diversity. Therefore it is in a prime position to foster international cultural relations.

Cultural diplomacy is key to a successful public diplomacy, however distinct in its essence. While PD attempts to ‘influence and inform’ foreign publics in line with the countries foreign policy through a coherent message, the focus within cultural diplomacy rather lies on the provision of platforms to foster international cultural relations (Bound, 2007:19). Through increased cultural relations networks are built that are crucial for successful PD strategies and ultimately foreign policies (Davidson, 2008).

Cultural diplomacy has been described by Senator Fulbright as the ‘most effective weapon’ to win the ‘war of ideas’ (Schneider, 2010:102) and as PD it thrives in a paradiplomatic world, where cities, regions, states and international organisations are involved (Melissen, 2007:10).



Since the Treaty of Lisbon the European External Action Service, with 140 delegations across the world, has significantly increased its capacity and credibility abroad. While the initial phase of the EAAS has been characterised by ‘institutional turf battles’, semantic discussions – do not call them embassies – and uncertainty of who is responsible for what (Petry, 2014). Today, they have manifested themselves as European coordinator and a genuine actor on the international stage. Its role in the negotiators with the Iranian nuclear deal or Somali pirates can been seen as a great success for the EU. With core foreign policy competences, e.g trade and the ability to speak for the biggest economic bloc and 500 people, its voice has considerable weight. Distinct to states the EEAS does not have its own military, while this is often said to be its main weakness, it may also seen as a strength. Multilateral organisations are often seen as more credible than states, and as “quiet superpower” connotations between EU cultural diplomacy and propaganda are less likely (Moravcsik, 2003).

CD is, and arguably has always been a central tool of diplomacy. However, a study shown that the EU itself has enjoyed only limited awareness around the world. Some programmes, such as Creative Europe and Horizon 2020 of the EU have already had previously outreach to countries within the European Neighbourhood Policy and in these countries the EU is seen as a central player.

The main weakness of the involvement in cultural relations is that there is only a weak mandate arising from the treaties in relation to culture.


Picture:(EEAS, 2017)

Member states sponsor cross border cultural programs and run cultural institutes with 914 offices within the EU and 1253 outside the EU (Yolanda:2016:11). While their mandate is mainly to promote national culture and language, in its entirety they represent European diversity, values. The cultural diplomacy platform is an additional way of collaboration and for national institutes that they are under increasing budget constraints pose a new venue for international outreach.

Therefore it is not a new European cultural policy but rather the next step in collaboration between national cultural institutes. The national cultural institutes have diverting regional emphasises therefore collaboration is a cost effective way of advancing their outreach. Other than trade which is an either or competence, we argue that culture is more effective the more levels of governance are involved. The new cultural diplomacy platform is thus not only a way to improve the EU image abroad but for European States to promote their national culture, within a common but diverse framework.


Bound K. et al. (2007) “Cultural Diplomacy”, Demos.

DAVIDSON M. (2008) – “CULTURAL RELATIONS: BUILDING NETWORKS TO FACE TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY CHALLENGES” in Engagement – Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

European Commission (2016a) “JOINT COMMUNICATION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL: Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations” accessibly at  last accessed 2.5.17

European Commission (2016b) “New European Cultural Diplomacy Platform launched” available at last accessed 2.5.17

EEAS (2015) “EU Delegations and Offices around the World” available at last accessed 2.5.17

Isar J. (2014) “‘CULTURE IN EU EXTERNAL RELATIONS’ Engaging the World: Towards Global Cultural Citizenship” Report for the European Commission available at: last accessed 2.5.17

Melissen J. (2005)The New Public Diplomacy: Between Theory and Practice. In: Melissen J. (eds.) The New Public Diplomacy Soft Power in International Relations. Basingstoke, UK: Palsgrave Macmillan, pp. 3-23

Moravcsik A. (2003) How Europe can win without an army. Financial Times. April 2 2003 [online] available at: yFT&cid=1048313410630&p=1012571727126. last accessed: May 25 2017

Petry S. (2012) From Commission Delegations to EU Embassies: External Perceptions of EU Diplomacy. In: Mahncke D. and Gstoehl S. (eds.) European Union Diplomacy: Coherency, Unity and Effectiveness with a foreword by Herman Van Rompuy. Switzerland: Peter Lang AG, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften pp. 215-238

Public Policy and Management Institute (2015) ANALYSIS OF THE PERCEPTION OF THE EU AND EU‘S POLICIES ABROAD. available at  last accessed 2.5.17

Yolanda, S., Daubeuf, C. and Kern, P. (2016) RESEARCH FOR CULT COMMITTEE – EUROPEAN CULTURAL INSTITUTES ABROAD. [online] Available at:  last accessed 9 Mar. 2017.

“Cultural diplomacy is an integral part of our common foreign policy” said Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.








2 thoughts on “European Cultural Diplomacy – a Coherent Message of Diversity

  1. trunyu May 3, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    You clearly presented the broad and certainly impressive presence of EU Delegations around the globe, and you also did a good analysis of its new cultural diplomacy platform.
    Moreover, it is also important that you remarked that this is actually “next step in collaboration between national cultural institutes”, and not only a public diplomacy program on its own.
    Finally, I would like to point out a statement you made by the end of your blog, with which I personally agree, being that “culture is more effective the more levels of governance … are involved” – and which the EU also seems to have taken under consideration.
    Great job, great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. politic06 May 15, 2017 / 7:43 pm

    this is very articulated and well presented, its interesting that european cities are home to many international institutions and the fact that the EU has offices and relations with much of the world, this european cultural diplomacy is very much working and succeeding as the EU is an example to the rest of world regions as a beacon of multiculturalism, and diversity. congratulations

    Liked by 1 person

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