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The Role of Culture in EU Public Diplomacy

Steffen Bay Rasmussen

This paper analyses the role of culture as a component of EU public diplomacy. Although culture and public diplomacy has not been given priority in the design and functioning of the European External Action service, the communicative potential of culture is nevertheless interesting to an actor such as the EU that largely relies on soft power resources and has the diffusion of its ideas and values as a central foreign policy objective. Furthermore, from a diplomatic-theoretical point of view, culture is particularly interesting because its use in public diplomacy reproduces the classical tension inherent in diplomacy; the objective of rapprochement (the possible comprehension and construction of shared understandings through cultural exchanges) and the instrumental view of the other and cementation of differences (culture as a source of estrangement and contestation). In analysing this tension in the case of the EU, the paper distinguishes between the political-institutional culture of the EU as a political entity and the general European culture that emerges as a result of the interaction of the cultures of the European peoples, and analyses how these aspects are interrelated. Empirically, the paper is focused on the interplay between activities at the EU level and those of the member states, arguing that the links between the two are vital to understand the current role of culture in EU public diplomacy as well as its potential as communicative tool.

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