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International Cultural Cooperation in Europe: Organisation and Trends

For more information see individual country profiles: 

Chapter 3.4.1-3.4.6 "International Cultural Cooperation" 

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


Lead Ministry / Ministries in charge of international cultural cooperation*

Bodies/agencies charged with promoting international cultural relations

Membership in regional co-operation bodies relevant for culture

Recent priorities and trends


Ministry of Tourism and Culture


BSEC; CEI; Francophonie

Focus on cultural heritage and film production. CF: Neighbours (Greece, FYROM, Kosovo), France, Italy, Switzerland


SR Min. of Culture and Min. of Foreign Affairs



One 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


Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and the Federal Chancellery, Minister for Arts and Culture, Constitution and Media

30 "Culture Fora" (Kulturforen) in 25 countries; Embassies; 61 Austrian Libraries; KulturKontakt Austria

Platform 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.


Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Min. of Foreign Affairs, State Committee on Work with Diaspora, Embassies

CoE, UNESKO, BSEC; GUAM (Georgia, UKR, AZ, MOL); TURKSOY; ISESCO (Islamic countries), CIS

Aims: 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.


SR Flemish Min. of Culture and Min. of Foreign Affairs; General Commission for the International Relations of the French Community; Go­vernment of the German Speaking Community

Diplomatic 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-Lux


ICC 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.



Min. of Culture (International Cultural Policy Directorate)

Bulgarian Cultural Institutes (BR: 10 countries); Embassies

BSEC; CEI; CoM-SEE; Francophonie

Main goal: Integration with the European Union. Regional focus: SE and Central Europe (incl. special activities for Bulgarian diaspora). 79 bilateral agreements / protocols.


SR Departments of: Foreign Affairs and International Trade; Canadian Heritage


Arctic Council; Francophonie

Development 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.


Min. 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; Embassies

CEI, 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).


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Cultural Affairs

The Danish Cultural Institute (BR: 10 countries); Danish Arts; Danish Center for Culture and Development; Embassies

Nordic CoM; Baltic Cooperation

CF: Asia (Bangladesh, China, Vietnam); Baltic States; Benelux; Germany; Hungary; Poland; Russia; UK


SR Min. of Culture; Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Education and Research

Estonian Institute (BR: 4 countries); Tuglas Society; Embassies

Baltic Cooperation

CF: Finland and Scandinavian countries; the other Baltic states; Hungary.


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Education and Culture

Finish Cultural Centres (in 16 countries); Embassies

Nordic 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.


Min. of Foreign Affairs (Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development - DGCID); in some fields SR with Min. of Culture

Embassies 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-Lux

Advocacy 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.


Min. of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sports

International agreements between cities, regions and institutions (e.g. archeological sites)


International 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


Federal 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 NGOs

Baltic Cooperation, Alps-Adria

In 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


Ministry of Culture

Hellenic Foundation  for Culture (BR in 4 countries, inc. Egypt);  Embassies

BSEC; Mediterranean Forum; Francophonie

Emergence 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.


SR Min. of Education and Culture; Min. of Foreign Affairs

Hungarian Cultural Centres (BR in 18 countries); Embassies; Balassi Institute

CEI; Platform CCE; Alps-Adria; Višegrad Group; Quadrilateral

Organising Hungarian seasons - artistic events abroad is a priority. Hungary has bilateral agreements with 105 countries, 50 of which are active.


Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism

Culture Ireland; Arts Council Ireland; Embassies; Centre Culturel Irlandais (Paris)

Anglo-Irish co-operation treaties

Strategic 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.


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. for Heritage and Cultural Activities; regional bodies

Istituto Italiano di Cultura (BR in 60 countries); Società Dante Alighieri (3.300 BR); Embassies

Mediterranean Forum; CEI; Alps-Adria; Quadrilateral

Since 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.


Min. of Culture

Embassies, The Latvian Institute

Baltic 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.


Government (Depart­ment of Culture)


Regional Conferences with A, CH, D

CF: Austria; Switzerland, Germany


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Culture

The Lithuanian Institute; Embassies

Baltic Cooperation

CF: Baltic sea countries; Russia (Kaliningrad region). Important émigré centres in the West.

FYR of

SR Min. of Culture; Min. of Foreign Affairs

Embassies / Cultural centres

CEI; Francophonie

Bilateral 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.


SR Min. of Education; Min. of Tourism and Culture

Malta Council for Culture and the Arts; Heritage Malta

Mediterranean Forum

Main ICC developments and strategies, between 2001 and 2006, attached to EU programmes. Important cultural tourism. CF: Italy; anglophone countries (large diaspora!); Lybia.



Min. of Culture (Section for European Integration, Relations and International Projects); Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min of Education

Embassies, State Company "Impresarios Agency"

BSEC; CEI; Francophonie; GUAM

Recent 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


Direction des Affaires Culturelles of Monaco

Embassies / Consulates


Support of tours of arts institutions (ballet; orchestra). CF: France; Russia; Panama


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Education, Culture and Science

Service Centre for International Cultural Activities (SICA); Netherlands Culture Fund; Embassies; Institut Néerlandais (Paris);  the Flemish-Dutch House (Brussels) etc.

Taalunie; co-operation in border regions

State 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.)


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Culture and Church Affairs

Embassies; 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 Cooperation

Main 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


SR Min. of Culture and National Heritage; Min. of Foreign Affairs

Polish 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 Group

Polish 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.


Min. of Foreign Affairs

Planning, Strategy, Evaluation and International Relations Office; Camões Institute (BR in 17 countries); Embassies

Mediterranean 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.


SR Min. of Culture and Religious Affairs;

Romanian Cultural Institutes

BSEC; 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



Min. of Foreign Affairs (MFA) negotiates general framework;

Min. of Culture addresses practical issues

Embassies; 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 other

Strengthening 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 Marino

Congress 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


Min. of Culture

Cities (e.g. Belgrade; Novi Sad)


European 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.


Min. of Culture (cooperation with Min. of Foreign Affairs)

Embassies, Slovak Institutes

CEI, Visegrad Group

International 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.


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs; Min. of Culture

Embassies; Artists' Studios (Paris, N.Y., Berlin); Office for Slovenes Abroad

CEI; Platform CCE; Alps-Adria; Quadrilateral

Accession 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. 


SR Min. of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Min. of Culture

Instituto 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 Regions

Mediterranean Forum; Organisation of Iberoamerican States (OEI - with Conferences of the Ministers of Culture); Andrés Bello Agreement; Eurorégion Culturelle

Bilateral 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.


Min. for Foreign Affairs

Svenska Institutet (BR in Paris); Embassies; Nat. Council for Cultural Affairs; Swedish Internat. Development Authority (SIDA); Internat. Artists Studio Programme (IASPIS); other agencies

Nordic 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).


SR Federal Department of Foreign Affairs; Federal Office of Cultural Affairs; regional bodies

Pro Helvetia, Embassies (Kulturkompetenzzentrum CCC)

Alps-Adria; Francophonie

Pro 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.


SR Min. of Culture and Tourism; Min. of Foreign Affairs

Embassies, culture centres


Main 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 Kingdom

SR Foreign & Commonwealth Office; Departments for Culture, Media and Sport and for International Development; regional bodies

British 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.

Source:       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 

D. Dodd, M. Lyklema, K. Dittrich-van Weringh: A Cultural Component as an Integral Part of the EU's Foreign Policy. Amsterdam, 2006.

Europanetz, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, 2006.

Directory section of the LabforCulture website, 2006.

EFAH/Interarts: Report on the State of Cultural Cooperation in Europe. Brussels, 2003.

M. J. Wyszomirski with Ch. Burgess, C. Peila: International Cultural Relations: A Multi-Country Comparison. The Ohio State University, Columbus, 2003.

A. J. Wiesand (Ed.): Handbook of Cultural Affairs in Europe. 3rd edition, Baden-Baden, 2000.

NOTE: 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.