Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

Politiques culturelles et mondialisation

Anne-Marie Autissier, professeur à l'Institut d'études européennes de l'université de Paris 8, directrice de la publication de la revue Culture Europe, expert pour la Commission européenne, la Fondation européenne de la Culture, le Ministère français des Affaires étrangères, et l'AFAA, 25 mai 2004 - 2004/05/25

In this study, Ms Autissier provides a brief overview of European cultural policies and discusses the domestic cultural strategies of Europe’s main regions and federated entities. She begins by noting that regardless of institutional structure (in Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, United Kingdom), democratic cultural policies have been wholly or partially legitimized by constantly changing government interventions according to asynchronous phenomena. In her view, many European states have forged their cultural policy tools within a national framework based on an identity or imaginary construct such as an area, language, or culture. This being the case, and despite the fact that European domestic policies are unequal in their treatment of the performing arts, visual arts, and art education, two sectors have benefited from significant attention in the past twenty years - heritage enhancement and the film/audiovisual industry. These sectors are also the best supported by the European Union. In its own way, each of these areas best incarnate and project national identity in the context of globalization. They are also the two sectors where jobs were created in Europe in the past two decades and where European Union member states easily agree on a “common fund” for joint community program development. Last, starting in the late 1980s, domestic and European support for the film and audiovisual industries was deemed urgent due to the trade imbalance between the United States and France (the U.S. film industry still controls 70% of the European market, France excepted). The most striking aspect of this development is that both the heritage and the film/audiovisual industry have developed dominant approach and reference models.

She regrets that culture in Europe is viewed as an exception, given that economic union seems to be the most tangible aspect of the EU dynamic. In this regard, she maintains that given the EU’s status as the world’s top exporter of services, the free trade pressures linked to its efforts to open up other markets have sometimes led the European Commission to accommodate its competitors and partners, particularly the United States. Thus, after years of “exclusion,” film and audiovisual production was added to GATT in 1986, giving rise to disputes that in 1993 led member states to adopt a very specific mandate for the European Commission in multilateral trade negotiations (TEC Article 133, “Commercial Policy”) aimed at excluding film and audiovisual productions from “liberalization” commitments by EU countries. This commitment, which some call “cultural exception,” was renewed in later WTO negotiations. The future constitutional treaty cites “cultural and linguistic diversity” as an EU objective, and Article 133 is now subject to a qualified majority, except when cultural or audiovisual diversity is in jeopardy. Article 151 is also likely to be subject to a qualified majority vote, not a unanimous one. But culture is still identified as one of the “areas of action to support, coordinate, or supplement,” in the same capacity as industry, the protection and improvement of human health, education, vocational training, youth, and sports, as well as civil defense.

However, European Union member states currently face tremendous challenges: reconciling their heritage with mechanisms open to the flow and circulation of cultural goods; attracting transnational and diasporic activities, either temporarily or permanently; and assuming their multicultural character while reinforcing what makes European cultural policies work best in the areas where they exist. Contrary to what states themselves tend to believe, she asserts that their role in this area is neither obsolete nor secondary. Consequently, the European Union would do well to establish a partnership strategy by creating a European Observatory on European Cultural Cooperation to detect dysfunctions and best cases while encouraging initiatives in various areas to build a European legal framework in support of cultural diversity. According to Autissier, both bilateral and multilateral cooperation between European and other countries can generate strong, groundbreaking alliances like the highly diverse International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP). To this end, the Convention being developed at UNESCO clearly sets out both the nature of cultural diversity and the legal framework that governs it.

Faced with global diversity, European states must abandon their diplomatic habits and allow individuals, associations, and cultural networks to act independently on their behalf. The very notion of cultural diversity must be seen as the basis for an ever-greater pooling of talents, creative works, and knowledge from various continents. Europe’s political boundaries do not and have never coincided with its creative boundaries, and its ability to both borrow from and influence all cultures is nothing new. This cultural Europe that “has never stood still” must open itself to dialogue with the world, both within and beyond its borders. Last, European states must abandon diplomacy motivated by a half-admitted desire for influence and listen to professionals and artists from other worlds. ( Available in French ) [78]