Cultural Diplomacy and Europe: The Cases of France and Italy

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The facade of the city hall on Brussels' Grand Place is illuminated to mark the European Year of Cultural Heritage, Belgium January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir - RC15A830CCA0

Abstract

A country’s role and position in the world are determined by the power of its culture, knowledge, and ideas, together with the power of its economy, military abilities, and governance. Countries aim at promoting and spreading their cultures through the interactions of people, the exchange of language, ideas, religion, and arts in order to improve the relations between groups and people. Cultural diplomacy is considered crucial when it comes to creating a positive image of a country. Cultural diplomacy can be defined as a course of actions that are based on and benefit the exchange of ideas, values, traditions, and other aspects of culture or identity to consolidate relationships, promote national interests, and improve socio-cultural cooperation. By being aware of the importance of cultural diplomacy, the European Union is committed to promoting the diverse cultures of Europe in other states and countries. Dissemination and promotion of culture have become vital elements in the European Union’s international relations. This paper deals with the European Cultural Diplomacy by analyzing the European Union’s attitude and practices and discusses the cultural diplomacy in two European countries: France and Italy.

Keywords: culture, diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, soft power, the European Union, European cultural diplomacy 

Introduction

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In today’s world, the power of culture, knowledge, and ideas, as well as the power of economy, military abilities, and the position of international governance institutions, influence a country’s role and position in the world (2011). For this reason, countries try to spread and make people know their culture, language, ideas by means of “cultural diplomacy.” Cultural Diplomacy has been in use for centuries, and to comprehend cultural diplomacy, it is important to know the concepts of “culture” and “diplomacy.” There are several definitions of culture made by different theorists. According to Samovar and Porter, culture is “the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving” Gudykunst and Kim define culture as the systems of knowledge that are shared by a large group of people. Williams defines it as “a particular way of life of a group of people—the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next”  

Diplomacy can be defined as “a dialogue between states” (Watson 1982) and a “communication that facilitates international society, the diplomatic profession being the custodian of the idea of international society” (Bull 1995). According to Viotti and Kauppi, diplomacy is the “management of international relations by communications to include negotiations, leading to a bargain or agreement” (2001). In a more general definition, diplomacy is defined as the activity of diplomats in the name of governments. A diplomat can be considered as a spokesman or messenger of the states or governments, and his/her mission is to convince another government or group of governments on issues concerning trade rights, territory, or national interests. 

The interactions of people, the exchange of ideas, language, arts, religion, and societal structures have developed relations between groups (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy,” 2018). To form a positive image of a country, cultural diplomacy is considered having of paramount importance by countries and governments. It aims at the promotion of the foreign policy interests of the state by fostering cultural exchange with other states (Kiełdanowicz, n.d.). Cultural diplomacy is defined as “a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation, promote national interests and beyond; Cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society” (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy,” 2018).

The European Union has dedicated itself to promoting and spreading the diverse cultures of Europe in other countries (Trobbiani, 2017). The promotion of the culture has become a crucial element in the European Union’s international relations. Culture is considered to be “a fundamental pillar” in the European agenda for culture, and it is used to support the EU’s foreign policy goals (Trobbiani, 2017). Through cultural diplomacy, the EU aims at ensuring the wellbeing, social and civil rights, and peace in target countries, as well as constructing lasting cultural relations and dialogue (Trobbiani, 2017). In this study, two European countries France and Italy, will be discussed, and their national attitudes and practices of Cultural Diplomacy will be analyzed.

Definitions of Culture and Diplomacy

To start with, it is important to define the concepts of culture and diplomacy, which will make it easier to analyze the concept of cultural diplomacy. The concept of “culture” is defined in a variety of ways by different theorists. Samovar and Porter define culture as “the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving” (1994). According to Gudykunst and Kim, culture is the systems of knowledge that is shared by a large group of people (1992). Williams defines it as “a particular way of life of a group of people—the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next” (2014). 

           On the other hand, diplomacy is a “dialogue between states” (Watson 1982) and a “communication that facilitates international society, the diplomatic profession being the custodian of the idea of international society” (Bull 1995). Viotti and Kauppi describe diplomacy as the “management of international relations by communications to include negotiations, leading to a bargain or agreement” (2001). Nicholson states that diplomacy is the “management of international relations by negotiation, the method by which these relations are adjusted and managed by ambassadors and envoys–the business or art of the diplomat” (1969). Moreover, it is said that diplomacy is the “management of relations (political, security, military, economic, scientific, cultural, etc.) between states and between states and other international actors, such as global/regional organizations, INGOs, transnational corporations, etc., by negotiation” (McDermott 1973). In a more general definition, diplomacy is the activity of diplomats in the name of governments (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy”, 2018). A diplomat is seen as a spokesman or messenger of the states or governments, and his/her mission is to persuade another government or group of governments on issues concerning trade rights, territory or national interests. Diplomats are regarded as “negotiators”. Diplomacy was normally limited to the governments’ relations, but it has changed in the last 50 years and now a diplomat is supposed to broaden his/her target group to include public organizations and also media, companies, and the civil society in the host country (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy”, 2018). A diplomat’s role could be peaceful and hostile. Diplomats are the governments’ messengers, and according to the agenda of the government, the diplomat might try to avoid a war or prepare a war, and if there is an ongoing war, a diplomat negotiates peace or cease-fire conditions (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy,” 2018). 

Definition of Cultural Diplomacy

           Even if the term has recently been found, it is no doubt that Cultural Diplomacy has existed as a practice for centuries (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy,” 2018). Travelers, explorers, traders, and artists can be all seen as examples of “informal ambassadors” or “cultural diplomats” (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy,” 2018). The interactions of peoples, the exchange of language, ideas, religion, arts, and societal structures have improved relations between groups of people throughout history, and today cultural diplomacy has become an academic field of research for international relations discipline (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy,” 2018). Cultural Diplomacy is described as “a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation, promote national interests and beyond; Cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society” (“Institute for Cultural Diplomacy”, 2018). Since culture and culture’s presentation are of prime importance in creating a positive image of a country, Cultural Diplomacy is considered vital by the countries and governments. Cultural Diplomacy can be performed within a particular county, abroad, or it can be conducted by utilizing media, which might reach within a country and abroad (Kiełdanowicz, n.d.). Cultural Diplomacy aims at the promotion of foreign policy interests of the state in the sphere of cultural diplomacy through fostering cultural exchange with other states (Kiełdanowicz, n.d.). Cultural Diplomacy includes “assisting cultural subjects in the dissemination of national culture and cultural identity, promoting the dissemination of the national language of the sending State in the receiving state, promoting and explaining cultural values of the sending State in the receiving state, negotiating international treaties on cultural cooperation and, finally, supporting and keeping up contacts with expatriate communities in the receiving state” (Pajtinka, 2014). J. Nye thinks that cultural diplomacy can be the best example of “soft power” (1990). Soft power enables states to communicate through the conduit of culture, ideas, and values in contrast to hard power (Nye, 1990). Soft power may be a replacement for traditional hard power, which uses military instruments and economic sanctions. Furthermore, soft power has become the preferred one because its aims and trust are peaceful, unlike hard power, which damages the relations of the states (Nye, 1990). Since between the power blocs, culture is considered as an integral part of the contest, Cultural Diplomacy has acquired special importance as a vital instrument of ideological struggle (Kurucz 2007, p. 64).

European Cultural Diplomacy

           The European Union (EU) is devoted to promoting the diverse culture of Europe in other states and countries in alignment with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (Trobbiani, 2017). In EU international relations, the promotion of culture has become a vital element, and it is one of the three main objectives of the European Agenda for Culture. In the European agenda for culture, culture is identified as “a fundamental pillar” in external relations (Trobbiani, 2017). Cultural cooperation with EU partners is considered as a significant role when it comes to supporting EU’s aims regarding economic and social developments, peace and stability, and the promotion of cultural diversity all over the world (“International cultural relations | Culture and Creativity”, n.d.). It can be seen in EU programs and policies that culture is used to support European Union’s foreign policy goals. European Union has invested money in bilateral and regional programs in order to promote social and cultural development, intercultural dialogue, capacity building, and cultural exchanges (Trobbiani, 2017). Programs such as Culture and Creativity Program, Media and culture for development in the Southern Mediterranean region, Erasmus+, the Development and Cooperation Instrument, the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the ENI Cross Cooperation, the Civil Facility, and Erasmus Mundus can be given as examples to the programs that are supported by the European Union to promote social and cultural development, cultural exchange, and intercultural dialogues (Trobbiani, 2017). The final aim of the European Cultural Diplomacy is to assist in ensuring wellbeing, social and civil rights, and peace in target countries as well as constructing lasting intercultural relations and dialogue (Trobbiani, 2017). Even though not concentrated on display, showcasing, or other traditional Soft Power tools, these activities still have diplomatic reasons and foreign policy objectives of the European Union. In order to comprehend the European Cultural Diplomacy practices and policies, two European countries, respectively France and Italy, and their attitudes and practices of cultural diplomacy will be analyzed in the following section of this paper.

France

French cultural initiatives date back to the “Ancien Régime” from the 15th to the 18th century (2011). In this period, cultural and diplomatic relationships were maintained, and the influence of the French language and culture was impressed all around the world (2011). French alliance was established in order to promote and spread the French language and culture abroad in 1883. At the end of World War I, France strengthened its outreach initiatives and built up the French association of expansion and artistic exchanges in 1992 (2011). It can be said that France introduced the techniques of cultural diplomacy to the world (Haigh, 1974). France has consolidated and accelerated its institutions’ activities over the past decades, and this can be understood as the manifestations of “soft power” and “cultural diplomacy” (Adleiba & Sakaev, 2019). To create a more charming image of its culture, language, and art, France has started to use the leverage of “soft power” (Adleiba & Sakaev, 2019). The use of France Media, France Museum’s agencies, UNESCO international institutes, Francophones, throwing mass sports and cultural festivals, and the review and revision of approaches to their foreign cultural policy development indicate the significance that is given to the France cultural influence spread (Adleiba & Sakaev, 2019). In our contemporary world, France still regards the cultural aspect as one of its five elementary pillars of diplomacy (2011). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been leading active cultural outreach initiatives in diplomacy. The main purpose is to reinforce France’s position as a leader in the fields such as language, communication, culture, higher education, and research (2011). Today a country’s role and position in the world can not only be estimated by the power of its economy, its military abilities, and its position in international governance institutions, but also it depends on the power of its knowledge, ideas, and culture (2011). In this context, France has a privileged position in the world. 

Italy

           For Italian foreign policy, cultural diplomacy has always been a significant tool (Medici, 2019). The culture was extensively used by Fascism in Italy, and in the liberal period, it represented an important resource (Medici, 2019). Cultural promotion abroad targeted at disseminating the regime’s political and social organizational model in the inter-war period. In the second post-war period, culture and cultural resources played an essential role in Italian international relations (Haigh, n.d.). After the wartime, the new democratic government transformed this activity from a propagandistic action to cultural diplomacy, which puts more emphasis on the issues of dialogue and cooperation (Medici, 2019). The new policy of Italy concerning cultural diplomacy is devoid of political themes but aims for the sympathy and the friendship of other countries. The Italian schools abroad are the oldest instruments of cultural diplomacy of Italy (Haigh, n.d.). Another oldest instrument of Italian cultural diplomacy is “the Dante Alighieri Society” (Medici, 2019). This society aims at supporting and promoting the Italian identity abroad. First, the society organized courses and lectures in order to keep the national feelings of Italian emigrants alive, but then it expanded by founding courses of the Italian language, libraries, disseminating books and publications, and organizing conferences (Pisa, 1995). Cultural Diplomacy is also carried out by means of educational institutions and universities, bilateral cooperation programs between universities, bilateral agreements on scientific, technological, and cultural cooperation, the organization of major exhibitions abroad. Other instruments for Italian cultural diplomacy are financing concerts, archeological missions, and academic exchange programs (Medici, 2019).

Conclusion

           The promotion of the culture, language, and ideas of the countries has become vital in determining the role and the position of countries in the world. Cultural Diplomacy is considered vital by the countries and governments since culture and culture’s presentation are of paramount importance in building up a positive image of a country. The European Union gives importance to promoting the cultures, languages, and ideas of Europe through Cultural Diplomacy. Cultural cooperation with EU countries and other countries is seen as important in supporting EU’s aims considering economic and social developments, peace and stability, and the promotion of cultural diversity all around the world. Although the EU doesn’t focus on displaying or showcasing its cultures and languages, the activities for promoting its culture have diplomatic and foreign policy objectives.

Aslıhan Abacı

TUİÇ Academy

European Studies Program

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