Putting culture at the heart of Europe’s external action

Putting culture at the heart of Europe’s external action

This morning I was at the European Culture Forum in Brussels, to talk about the work I’m doing with my colleague Tibor Navracsics on the first-ever EU strategy on cultural diplomacy. The Forum was a great opportunity to reflect on the role culture plays in our foreign policy. This is not just about protecting our cultural heritage: we need to understand that investing in culture fosters growth, can help prevent radicalisation and strengthens our diplomatic networks. But today we also had the chance to think about our European culture: our continent has become great thanks to the encounter between different cultures and to our openness to the world. It’s worth keeping this in mind, as a good antidote against today’s fears. Here are the video and the full text of my...

My speech at the European Culture Forum 2016 in Brussels

Check against delivery Ladies and gentlemen, First of all I would like to thank you for having invited me to this great event, and for giving me the opportunity to reflect on something bigger, and deeper, than the everyday crisis agenda of the current Foreign policy. Almost 25 years ago we were told we were entering the era of a clash of civilisations. We were told that wars would be fought because of religion and culture. You probably know where I stand on this: I believe there is no clash of civilisations. Wars are still being fought for the same, old reasons. Economic interests, natural resources, spheres of influence, power. And yet, there are indeed cultural clashes to fight. These clashes do not occur between civilisations, but inside each of our civilisations. Culture can be a battlefield. It has been a battlefield in Europe for centuries. Today, some global and regional players believe that culture can be “weaponised”. But culture can also be the place where people meet and make the most out of their diversity. This is the choice we have made when our Union was founded. We realized that our culture is Greek and Jewish, Roman and Anglo-Saxon, Christian and Arab, Latin and Slavic, French and German, Mediterranean and Scandinavian, religious and secular. It was not isolation, but openness what made Europe such an incredible place and project. A project of integration that the world considers – still – as a model. Exchanges made us richer, not weaker. Culture in Europe is always plural – because so many different cultures belong in this continent. European culture is diversity. European culture is...
Libya, Afghanistan, migration: work in progress with the Foreign and Defence Ministers

Libya, Afghanistan, migration: work in progress with the Foreign and Defence Ministers

I just got back from two intense working days with the 28 EU Foreign and Defence Ministers in Luxembourg. Yesterday it was exactly one year after the tragedy in the Strait of Sicily, in which over 800 people lost their lives. So we took stock of all the external actions we have launched on migration over these twelve months, to plan the work ahead. In one year we have started Operation Sophia, which has brought to justice tens of traffickers and saved 13,000 human lives. In one year we have launched the Trust Fund for Africa, which has already invested 700 million euros in concrete projects. In one year we have initiated an unprecedented dialogue with our African partners, not just on the return of illegal migrants but first and foremost on the continent’s development. One year ago I was tasked to open high level political dialogues with a number of strategic countries – from Nigeria to Ethiopia: all these dialogues have now kicked off, providing us with a platform for managing together the flows of human beings. (Here is my press conference at the end of the Council’s first meeting). With Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for refugees, yesterday we discussed our common engagement on many files: from the implementation of the deal with Turkey to our commitment to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria, from our work on the Western Balkan’s route to the support to Syrians in Jordan and Lebanon, our help to refugees in Africa and in Afghanistan, both inside and outside the country. Together we save and protect the lives of men, women and children who flee from war and dramatic crises. One of the most...