International cultural cooperation

International cultural cooperation

This section features a comparative overview of the national ministries in charge of international cultural cooperation, the bodies or agencies that promote international cultural relations, relevant memberships and recent priorities and trends.

International cultural cooperation in Europe: organisation and trends

For more information see chapter 1.4 International cooperation of the individual country profiles.


Alps-Adria = Alps-Adriatic Working Community
BR = Branch institutes
BSEC = Black Sea Economic Co-operation
CEI = Central European Initiative
CF = Countries in focus
CoM-SEE = Council of Ministers of Culture in South East Europe
CoM-N = (Nordic) Council of Ministers
ICC = International cultural co-operation
Min. = Ministry
Platform CCE = Platform “Culture – Central Europe”
SR = Shared responsibility
Country Lead Ministry / Ministries in charge of international cultural cooperation*Bodies/agencies charged with promoting international cultural relationsMembership in regional co-operation bodies relevant for cultureRecent priorities and trends
AlbaniaMinistry of Tourism and CultureEmbassiesBSEC; CEI; FrancophonieFocus on cultural heritage and film production. CF: Neighbours (Greece, FYROM, Kosovo), France, Italy, Switzerland
ArmeniaSR Min. of Culture and Min. of Foreign AffairsEmbassiesBSEC, CIS, INCPOne of the priority directions of Armenia's cultural policy is the preservation and development of relations with Diaspora, which is carried out through cultural unions, NGOs and centers operating in Diaspora
AustriaFederal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and the Federal Chancellery, Minister for Arts and Culture, Constitution and Media30 "Culture Fora" (Kulturforen) in 25 countries; Embassies; 61 Austrian Libraries; KulturKontakt AustriaPlatform CCE; CEI; Alps-Adria, Francophonie (observer status), EUNIC, International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), Centrope (Vienna-Bratislava)ICC influenced by debates about Europe and "European Values, intercultural dialogue and regional security issues." Regional Focus: Central / Eastern Europe, esp. Balkans. Cultural co-operation agreements with 27 countries.
AzerbaijanMinistry of Culture and TourismMin. of Foreign Affairs, State Committee on Work with Diaspora, EmbassiesCoE, UNESKO, BSEC; GUAM (Georgia, UKR, AZ, MOL); TURKSOY; ISESCO (Islamic countries), CISAims: To foster relations based on "mutual understanding and trust with other countries, work with them on the basis of mutual benefit and equal rights, and to give to the world a clear, objective picture" of Azerbaijan.
BelgiumSR Flemish Min. of Culture and Min. of Foreign Affairs; General Commission for the International Relations of the French Community; Go­vernment of the German Speaking CommunityDiplomatic representations of the Communities; some individual institutions, e.g. Academia Belgica (Rome); Wallonia-Brussels Centre; Flemish-Dutch  and Flemish-Moroccan Houses (Brussels) or the Belgisches Haus (Cologne)Taalunie (Flanders); Francophonie (Wallonie); Euregio Maas-Rhein; Grossregion Saar-Lor-LuxICC in Belgium has been transferred to regional Governments, which rotate in their participation in European/international bodies. Flanders: general application of envelope funding system (international budget embedded in general multi-annual grants); special focus on intercultural dialogue. CF: South Africa, Morocco, China and the French Community in Belgium. French Community: Key diplomatic representations in Paris, Geneva, Brussels and other cities. German-speaking Community: Focus on neighbouring countries/regions.
BulgariaMin. of Culture (International Cultural Policy Directorate)Bulgarian Cultural Institutes (BR: 10 countries); EmbassiesBSEC; CEI; CoM-SEE; FrancophonieMain goal: Integration with the European Union. Regional focus: SE and Central Europe (incl. special activities for Bulgarian diaspora). 79 bilateral agreements / protocols.
CanadaSR Departments of: Foreign Affairs and International Trade; Canadian HeritageEmbassiesArctic Council; FrancophonieDevelopment of international strategic framework  to develop and implement thematic or geographic-based strategies in key action areas: addressing the cultural trade deficit by increasing exports; using new technology to ensure better visibility for Canadian content; strengthening relations with the United States; increasing focus on G8 and emerging global powers; and more coherence with overall Government international priorities.
CroatiaMin. of Culture (Directorate for International Cultural Cooperation); Min. of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (Department for International Cultural Cooperation)Cultural Council for International Relations and European Integration; EmbassiesCEI, Alps-Adria; COM-SEE, INCP, Quadrilateral (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary)Focus on ICC within the region of South Eastern Europe (based mainly on direct contacts between artists and arts and cultural organizations).
DenmarkSR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Cultural AffairsThe Danish Cultural Institute (BR: 10 countries); Danish Arts; Danish Center for Culture and Development; EmbassiesNordic CoM; Baltic CooperationCF: Asia (Bangladesh, China, Vietnam); Baltic States; Benelux; Germany; Hungary; Poland; Russia; UK
EstoniaSR Min. of Culture; Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Education and ResearchEstonian Institute (BR: 4 countries); Tuglas Society; EmbassiesBaltic CooperationCF: Finland and Scandinavian countries; the other Baltic states; Hungary.
FinlandSR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Education and CultureFinish Cultural Centres (in 16 countries); EmbassiesNordic CoM; the Barents Regional Council; the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)Cultural exports have become a major ICC policy issue. Nordic and Nordic-Baltic -co-operation is being renovated. Enhanced efforts for cultural co-operation with China and countries of South-East Asia.
FranceMin. of Foreign Affairs (Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development - DGCID); in some fields SR with Min. of CultureEmbassies and French Cultural Centres of DGCID; Alliance Française (BR in 131 countries - 2003); Association Française d'action artistique (AFAA)Francophonie; Mediterranean Forum; Grande Region Saar-Lor-LuxAdvocacy role for cultural pluralism and diversity (incl. issues that are influenced by WTO, the EU and other bodies). The world-wide promotion of French language and culture and language training is seen as a contribution towards these goals. Important role of culture industries (e.g. cinema, music) and heritage.
GeorgiaMin. of Culture, Monuments Protection and SportsInternational agreements between cities, regions and institutions (e.g. archeological sites)BSEC; GUAMInternational events, e.g. festivals. CF: Baltic states, GUAM Countries, Armenia, Russia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, France, Romania, Italy, Israel, UK, Poland, Bulgaria. Asia (Turkey, Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan ) USA
GermanyFederal Foreign Office; in some fields, e.g. European co-operation, SR with Länder Governments; Fed. Chancellor's Office etc.Goethe Institute (BR: 81 countries + additional information and learning centres, reading rooms etc.); Institut f. Auslands­beziehungen (Ifa); Embassies; Local / Regional Bodies and NGOsBaltic Cooperation, Alps-AdriaIn 2006, major conferences were held to highlight a new political importance attributed to ICC (incl. language teaching) and to discuss future developments. The now higher place on political agendas was underlined by increases in the federal budget. Regional focus: EU countries; Asia (China, India); Eastern and Central Europe; Middle East
GreeceMinistry of CultureHellenic Foundation  for Culture (BR in 4 countries, inc. Egypt);  EmbassiesBSEC; Mediterranean Forum; FrancophonieEmergence of new forms of ICC, e.g. the gradual devolution of responsibilities from the state to arms-length organisations and an increased diversity of co-operation or funding opportunities (notably from the EU). Focus on heritage.
HungarySR Min. of Education and Culture; Min. of Foreign AffairsHungarian Cultural Centres (BR in 18 countries); Embassies; Balassi InstituteCEI; Platform CCE; Alps-Adria; Višegrad Group; QuadrilateralOrganising Hungarian seasons - artistic events abroad is a priority. Hungary has bilateral agreements with 105 countries, 50 of which are active.
IrelandDepartment of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Arts, Sport and TourismCulture Ireland; Arts Council Ireland; Embassies; Centre Culturel Irlandais (Paris)Anglo-Irish co-operation treatiesStrategic objective of DFA: "to promote Ireland through culture, with a view to the enhancement of Ireland's image and reputation abroad". Establishment in 2005 of Culture Ireland, the national agency to promote Irish arts and artists overseas.
ItalySR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. for Heritage and Cultural Activities; regional bodiesIstituto Italiano di Cultura (BR in 60 countries); Società Dante Alighieri (3.300 BR); EmbassiesMediterranean Forum; CEI; Alps-Adria; QuadrilateralSince the early 2000's, trend towards a "fragmentation into a variety of institutional actors" in ICC, including the Regions.  Shift of balance from Europe to other world regions and away from bilateral agreements to direct co-opera-tion. Among the priorities: Heritage and cultural tourism; "Italian Years"; language training.
LatviaMin. of CultureEmbassies, The Latvian InstituteBaltic Assembly, Baltic Council of Ministers, Baltic Council, Council of the Baltic Sea States, cooperation of Baltic and Nordic states."The Cultural Policy Guidelines 2006 - 2015" set the vision for the development of Latvian international co-operation as being: 1) sustainable cultural exchange, based on co-operation projects and co-productions, thus furthering the professionalism of cultural operators, and encouraging creativity and excellence in all cultural branches; 2) increasing recognition and competitiveness of Latvian cultural products; 3) Latvia actively participating in and contributing to the cultural processes in the EU and the wider international community.
LiechtensteinGovernment (Depart­ment of Culture)-Regional Conferences with A, CH, DCF: Austria; Switzerland, Germany
LithuaniaSR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of CultureThe Lithuanian Institute; EmbassiesBaltic CooperationCF: Baltic sea countries; Russia (Kaliningrad region). Important émigré centres in the West.
FYR of MacedoniaSR Min. of Culture; Min. of Foreign AffairsEmbassies / Cultural centresCEI; FrancophonieBilateral cultural co-operation agreements are still a major instrument for ICC. The appointment of recognised artists, writers etc., as "cultural ambassadors" abroad is announced by the government  in 2006. "Macedonian Diaspora" as a new priority.
MaltaSR Min. of Education; Min. of Tourism and CultureMalta Council for Culture and the Arts; Heritage MaltaMediterranean ForumMain ICC developments and strategies, between 2001 and 2006, attached to EU programmes. Important cultural tourism. CF: Italy; anglophone countries (large diaspora!); Lybia.
MoldovaMin. of Culture (Section for European Integration, Relations and International Projects); Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min of EducationEmbassies, State Company "Impresarios Agency"BSEC; CEI; Francophonie; GUAMRecent main priorities in the field of ICC: 1) developing Moldovan involvement in international projects, initiated by the Council of Europe, European Union and UNESCO; 2) promoting the cultural image of the country through participation of artistic groups at cultural events abroad; and 3) promoting cultural tourism at the international level. CF: Romania; other Black Sea countries
MonacoDirection des Affaires Culturelles of MonacoEmbassies / ConsulatesFrancophonieSupport of tours of arts institutions (ballet; orchestra). CF: France; Russia; Panama
NetherlandsSR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Education, Culture and ScienceService Centre for International Cultural Activities (SICA); Netherlands Culture Fund; Embassies; Institut Néerlandais (Paris);  the Flemish-Dutch House (Brussels) etc.Taalunie; co-operation in border regionsState documents and policies suggest a "return to the notion of the importance of profiling Dutch culture abroad" (in addition to dialogue-oriented goals). CF: EU member states, Russia, the USA, Canada, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Surinam, South Africa, Indonesia. NL as an ICC "hub" for the whole of Europe (NGO, Europ. Cultural Foundation etc.)
NorwaySR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Culture and Church AffairsEmbassies; Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA); Music Information Centre Norway (MIC); NORLA - Norwegian Literature Abroad; Norwegian Film Institute (NFI); etc.Nordic CoM; Barents Regional Council; Baltic CooperationMain fields: Artistic exchanges and promotion of Norwegian artists and works of art; Culture as a core component of intra-Nordic co-operation; Cultural diversity and globalisation issues
PolandSR Min. of Culture and National Heritage; Min. of Foreign AffairsPolish Institutes (BR: 16 countries); Adam Mickiewicz Institute; International Cultural Centre; Embassies; Polish Information and Foreign Investments Agency; The Permanent Conference of Museums, Archives and Polish Libraries in the West; Gaude Polonia; Borderland Foundation...CEI; Baltic Cooperation; Platform CCE; Višegrad GroupPolish ICC is shaped by its specific geographical location, by economic and political interests as well as by the role of a large "Polish Diaspora". CF: Belgium, Austria, France, Germany and other member states of the EU; USA; Israel ("Jewish Diaspora"); the Baltic Region and countries on Polands Eastern border (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, the latter via non-governmental bodies). State bilateral co-operation is gradually replaced by activities of European institutions and artistic or NGO initiatives.
PortugalMin. of Foreign AffairsPlanning, Strategy, Evaluation and International Relations Office; Camões Institute (BR in 17 countries); EmbassiesMediterranean Forum; Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries - CPLP; OEI (see Spain)Main focus: 1) co-operation with communities and countries whose official language is Portuguese; 2) dissemination of the Portuguese language, also via media programmes and Internet; 3) dissemination of Portuguese works of creative art abroad; 4) organisation of major cultural events.
RomaniaSR Min. of Culture and Religious Affairs;Romanian Cultural InstitutesBSEC; CEI; Francophonie (Summit 2006)Romania's "Brand Image" and the development of "Creative Industries" are in the focus of ICC. CF: European Union member states and the neighbouring countries of SEE and the Black Sea Region. Special attention for the needs and expectations of Romanian communities living abroad
RussiaMin. of Foreign Affairs (MFA) negotiates general framework; Min. of Culture addresses practical issuesEmbassies; Federal Agency for the CIS, Compatriots Living Abroad and for International Humanitarian Cooperation under the MFA and its Centres for scientific and cultural co-operation abroad; Russian Association for International Co-operation;  "Russian World" Fund , etc.Baltic Cooperation; Barents Regional Cooperation; BSEC; Nordic Council; Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation and otherStrengthening the cultural component in international relations; Promotion of Russian language and culture abroad Bilateral exchange agreements with many countries all over the  world; Development of cultural interactions between the CIS member states; Strengthening cross-border cultural co-operation; Deepening relations with compatriots living abroad.
San MarinoCongress of State (Government) with SR of different Ministries• Embassies and Consulates;
• Dante Alighieri Association
• Alliance Française Institute
• Nua Association (New Contemporary Art and Research)
• Communities of San Marino Citizens abroad
Emphasis on heritage issues. CF: Mainly Italy, but also France, Russia, China, Romania, and so on
SerbiaMin. of CultureCities (e.g. Belgrade; Novi Sad)BSEC; CEIEuropean integration as the ultimate political goal influences ICC, with increased role of local authorities and NGO. Regional partnerships and Serbian diaspora activities gain importance, while other ICC policy instruments are still in a development stage.
SlovakiaMin. of Culture (cooperation with Min. of Foreign Affairs)Embassies, Slovak InstitutesCEI, Visegrad GroupInternational presentation of Slovak culture, European Capital of Culture 2013 (Košice - regional capital of Eastern Slovakia), European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008, diversity of cultural expressions (UNESCO Convention), EU cultural programmes (Culture 2000, MEDIA), financial support of international cultural cooperation (projects and activities), protection, presentation and digitisation of cultural heritage, interoperability of cultural databases, connecting of Europeana and other data networks.
SloveniaSR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of CultureEmbassies; Artists' Studios (Paris, N.Y., Berlin); Office for Slovenes AbroadCEI; Platform CCE; Alps-Adria; QuadrilateralAccession to the EU increasingly influences ICC in Slovenia. Official cooperation agreements mainly with non-European countries and those with "different political systems" (e.g. Russia; China). CF: Central European and Adriatic countries.  Many theatre exchanges; important role of NGO. Slovenian EU Presidency in first half 2008 brought ICD and Western Balkans as a priorities. 
SpainSR Min. of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Min. of CultureInstituto Cervantes (BR in 42 countries); Embassies; State Corporation for Spanish Cultural Action Abroad (SEACEX), Carolina Foundation (Latin America) and other agencies; some bodies of the RegionsMediterranean Forum; Organisation of Iberoamerican States (OEI - with Conferences of the Ministers of Culture); Andrés Bello Agreement; Eurorégion CulturelleBilateral exchange agreements still important basis for cultural exchanges. Focus on artistic exchanges, training of cultural professionals, language teaching and co-operation programmes with countries in Latin America, the Arab countries (Morocco, in particular), Africa and some Asian countries. International promotion of trade, language and tourism, also by some of the Regions.
SwedenMin. for Foreign AffairsSvenska Institutet (BR in Paris); Embassies; Nat. Council for Cultural Affairs; Swedish Internat. Development Authority (SIDA); Internat. Artists Studio Programme (IASPIS); other agenciesNordic CoM; Barents Regional Cooperation; Baltic Cooperation"Cultural Policies for Development" concepts, with close links to local life, culture, and the environment, shape ICC and lead to program­mes e.g. in Africa, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. A strong tradition of Nordic cooperation is complemented by better relations with the whole Baltic region (e.g. in "Ars Baltica" exchanges).
SwitzerlandSR Federal Department of Foreign Affairs; Federal Office of Cultural Affairs; regional bodiesPro Helvetia, Embassies (Kulturkompetenzzentrum CCC)Alps-Adria; FrancophoniePro Helvetia supports dialogue-oriented programmes (e.g. in the Balkans). Cantons are responsible for cross-border cooperation. Since 2006 partner in the MEDIA -programme of the EU and Interrg-Programs.
UkraineSR Min. of Culture and Tourism; Min. of Foreign AffairsEmbassies, culture centresBSEC; CEI; GUAMMain goal is "to ensure Ukraine's proactive cultural representation in the international area", with emphasis on the Black sea area and the Balkans, active participation in CoE and EU culture programmes. Focus on festivals, large events, diaspora; increased NGO activities.
United KingdomSR Foreign & Commonwealth Office; Departments for Culture, Media and Sport and for International Development; regional bodiesBritish Council (BR in 109 countries and territories); Arts Councils; Visiting Arts; BBC World Service, etc.Anglo-Irish co-operation treaties; Commonwealth (not active in ICC)Decentralisation of ICC (Scotland and Northern Ireland particularly active); increasing role for NGO and UK participation in international networks. "Increasing the Mobility of Collections" initiative (with EU); Cultural management training in many parts of Europe and the World; "Culture-in-development" programmes. Important role of culture industries.

Compiled by the ERICarts Institute, based on county profiles in the Council of Europe/ERICarts: Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 19th edition, 2017, and institutional websites.

Additional sources:

A similar table with additional countries which are not yet part of the Compendium has been contributed by ERICarts to the G2CC project (see under Transversal Issues). It is available on the LabforCulture website.