Culturelink Newsletter Special Issue / April 2019

Organized by

In collaboration with

With the support of



Rijeka, Croatia, 30 - 31 May 2019


In collaboration with:


The Centre for Democracy and Law Miko Tripalo, RIJEKA 2020 and the University of Rijeka, in cooperation with Culturelink/IRMO and the Observatoire des politiques culturelles, France, invite you to participate at the international conference on International Cultural Relations of the European Union - Europe, the World, Croatia, to be held on 30 and 31 May 2019 in Rijeka, the European Capital of Culture 2020.

The aim of the conference is to encourage dialogue about the opportunities and challenges of today's international cultural cooperation and to analyse the modalities that lead to more intense and more functional global cooperation and exchange between the European Union and the world. The rapid changes that mark today's world (revolution in digital communication, rise of social media, new global actors, rapid urbanization, changes in cultural values) raise questions about how to support, enhance and strengthen the practices of cultural exchange and interaction. Are the efforts in promoting the exchange of cultural goods and services enough? How to advocate for a more decisive role of culture in development policies and cross-sectoral linkages? How to support the role of local communities in international cultural cooperation? How are cultures facing numerous global instabilities?

The four main topics of the conference are: The role of cultural policies in fostering international cultural cooperation; Cultural networks, the expression of cultural change in international relations; Cultural diplomacy: strengthening external relations in a globalised world; and Croatia in international cultural cooperation.

For a detailed conference programme, please visit

We kindly ask you to register for the conference at


Promoting culture as a vital element in international relations of the European Union is one of the three fundamental pillars/goals of the first European Agenda for Culture in a Globalising World adopted in 2007. A strategic approach to cultural cooperation remains a priority of work plans and programs for culture, as well as resolutions on the cultural dimension of EU's international relations (i.e. Resolution on the Cultural Dimension of the EU's External Actions) from 2011 to the present. Strengthening international cultural relations of the EU, including cooperation with cultures outside of Europe (external dimension), remains one of the three strategic objectives (along with the social and the economic ones) of the New European Agenda for Culture adopted in 2018.

The European Commission published the document Towards an EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations in June 2016, with the goal of promoting culture as 'an integral part of the European Union's international action', i.e. strengthening cultural cooperation of the European Union with other regions of the world. This document prompted the preparation of the European Parliament's report published under the same name in July 2017. The Strategy highlights the contribution of culture - as a transversal factor - to sustainable development, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values. It formulates a new model of cultural cooperation between the European Union and other countries of the world. Support for culture as 'a catalyst of sustainable social and economic development' (especially about the contribution of cultural and creative industries to economic growth and employment) and support for the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue for peace and stability are at the forefront of this model.

Rapid changes that mark today's world, such as the revolution in digital communication, the rise of social media, new global actors, rapid urbanization (74% of the population of the EU today lives in urban areas) as well as changes in cultural values, numerous challenges and conflicts, bring to the forefront questions such as how to strengthen the awareness of interdependence of cultures and support/improve practices of cultural exchange and interaction. Are efforts to promote a more balanced exchange of cultural goods and services enough? How to strengthen the role of culture in development policies and inter-sectoral linkages? How to support the role of local communities in international cultural cooperation? Could cultures stand up to the numerous global instabilities? Could the European Neighbourhood Policy, especially in the region of South East Europe, be more effective?

The unique value of the European project that has been reexamined recently, due to the rise of different circumstances and priorities, needs to be re-emphasized. The present historical moment, burdened by multiple international crises, demands the evaluation and (re)affirmation of the unique value of Europe. Culture is at the core of the European soft power. The nucleus of the cultural logic of the European process is to unite, not to divide, West and East, North and South, or countries that identify with any geopolitical side of the world. Therefore, the goal of the conference is to consider the challenges and modalities that lead to more intense cooperation and partnership between the European Union and the world.

Croatia is committed to following European standards in its internal and foreign relations. As a country that has accepted to care for and develop European values in all forms of its political and cultural activities, Croatia strives to strengthen the role of culture in its internal and foreign relations and invests efforts to include culture as a connective element of international relations within a development process that is attainable, inclusive and sustainable. Cultural cooperation affirms, in a non-contradicting way, different approaches and experiences of all countries and societies in the world. According to available data (2014), Croatia's cooperation has been focused on EU member states (57.36%) and other European countries (16.65%). Precisely at a time when the European Union is paying more attention to international relations with strategic partners on other continents and towards European neighbours (in accordance with the EU Strategy for international cultural relations), Croatia, using its knowledge and experience in cultural cooperation, has a chance to participate more intensively in the creation and development of new forms of intercultural communication and cooperation. Culture-related issues are no longer only in the domain of cultural policy but are also linked to other public policies and development as a whole. This requires continuous attention when it comes to interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches in Croatian international relations.

Is today's Croatia capable of being an example of a European country that thinks culturally because it cooperates with countries, institutions and peoples tolerant of others, and a country that recognizes its own good and bad sides, striving, through international cooperation, to overcome differences that divide in favour of differences that unite? What are the diversities that connect? Culture has been resolving these questions for centuries through the theory and practice of multicultural environments. In places where politics or economics speak the language of exclusivity, culture speaks of inclusivity. Cultural traditions and heritage have always revealed the fundamental sustainability of pluralistic worlds and the unsustainability of the illusion of culturally 'clean' spaces. Modern creative cultural accomplishments, which connect locally and globally, urban and cosmopolitan spaces, reconcile seemingly irreconcilable spaces and harmonize what is seemingly contradictory and divisive.

Many issues arising from old and new misconceptions and narrow-mindedness, and attitudes that see others as threats, remain to be resolved. Will Rijeka - the European Capital of Culture 2020 provide innovative ways of addressing such issues?


The conference will include three thematic sessions and one round table.

1) The role of cultural policies in fostering international cultural cooperation

The consideration of new cultural policies embraces the developmental role of culture, the exchange of development experiences and research of cultural changes, all of which constitute international cultural relations and promote overall development processes. Intercultural communication needs to be considered as a basic resource for development and a common value of our planet.

An interdisciplinary/cross-sectoral approach (e.g. connecting culture, education, science and technology, as well as culture, health and urban policy) is a possible prerequisite for the implementation of cultural policies within international relations.

The role of civil society organizations in shaping democratically-founded cultural and other public policies and in international relations is becoming clearly visible. Culturally sustainable development demands innovative initiatives in the institutional and non-institutional spheres of culture, collaboration and partnerships with other sectors, designing cooperation in a global framework.

Cultural policies of cities (intercultural cities, digital cities, creative cities) make them (cities) important actors in international relations and open up new spaces for partnerships, but also highlight the need to reform/transform cultural policies of cities.

International mobility and the exchange of artists and other cultural workers are crucial in spreading new ways of communication and long-term international cultural cooperation. Mobility brings new ideas, knowledge, skills and cultural practices that enrich every community.

2) Cultural networks - the expression of cultural changes in international relations

Cultural networks strongly promote trans-cultural cooperation: they leave their mark on the overall international relations by encouraging interactions through which cultures express their particularities, diversity and tolerance of other cultures. They introduce new ideas and work methods into international relations based on the lack of institutional or other strictly-defined structures. With their flexible formats and horizontal approach, networks open up the process of transforming cultural policies. To what extent is the path from networking of cultures to networked cultures realized? To what extent are new ways of dialogue, exchange of experiences from different cultures and different forms of participation emerging? What are cultural actors accomplishing in this regard?

How can the role of networks in EU's international cooperation be reasserted?

3) Round table on Cultural diplomacy: strengthening external relations in a globalized world

Cultural diplomacy plays an important role in resolving issues related to migration, sustainable development, conflict prevention, peacemaking/peacekeeping and in other areas. Cultural diplomacy practices and main concepts in the EU's global, geopolitical and strategic approaches to third countries will be examined.

Is it possible to distinguish between the concept of external cultural relations and cultural diplomacy? In what way does the soft power approach function in an international cultural context? Do small EU Member States have the potential to apply the soft power approach? To what extent does cultural diplomacy create practical synergy between public-private partnerships, national ministries of culture, artists, and cultural networks?

4) Croatia in international cultural cooperation

Croatia is predominantly oriented towards cultural cooperation with other EU member states (about 60%). At a time when the EU is becoming focused on strategic partners on other continents and its eastern and southern neighbours (European Neighbourhood Policy) in international cultural relations, the question arises whether Croatia can or wants to follow the EU in the non-European international cultural relations? Does Croatia show an interest in other cultures and where is it most clearly manifested (for example in translation and publishing, in the audiovisual industry, in music, etc.)?

Is international cultural cooperation in the Mediterranean, confronted today with migrant and refugee crises/tragedies, of particular interest to Croatia as a Mediterranean country? Does Croatia have an interest in becoming involved in multilateral projects with countries on the northern, eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean? Can Croatia contribute to Mediterranean projects that open the way for Mediterranean multicultural dialogue and cooperation?

Biserka Cvjeticanin and Vjeran Katunaric

© 2019 Culturelink, Network of Networks for Research and Cooperation in Cultural Development

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