With regard to the Council of Europe, culture plays a key role in implementing its mandate to strengthen human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In fact, encouraging awareness and promoting the development of Europe’s cultural identity and diversity is one of four main objectives pursued by the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe’s Cultural Convention entered into force in 1955. This European Cultural Convention provides for mutual respect of Europe’s wide range of national identities and aims to foster languages, history and society. Following some structural changes, all cultural aspects are now managed in the Council of Europe’s Secretariat by the Directorate of Democratic Governance, Culture and Diversity established on 1 October 2011 within the Directorate-General Democracy (DG II).
The Council of Europe’s cultural agenda covers a wide range of programmes that focus on the support of governments in the field of cultural policy capacity-building as well as the preparation of analyses and reports on the individual member states’ cultural policies. The Council of Europe’s most important monitoring tool consists of its regular evaluations of members’ cultural policy. Under this programme, Austria’s National Report was evaluated in 1993.
Another important aspect of the Council of Europe’s activities is promoting and supporting European films, especially through the dedicated “Eurimages” fund. It also organises special exhibitions and launches specific programmes, dealing for instance, with issues related to the Roma community.
A main focus of the Council of Europe’s pro-active commitment to promoting education is multilingualism. This objective is further promoted by the European Centre for Modern Languages which was set up by the Council in Graz in 1994. Through its activities, the centre strives to encourage language learning, to provide assistance and advice to language teachers as well as to promote excellence and innovation in language teaching. In order to stress the importance of multilingualism, the Council of Europe designated 29 September as the European Day of Languages.
European Centre for Modern Languages
Another, particularly successful initiative launched by the Council of Europe is the “ European Cultural Routes” programme. Austria is one of the founding members of the Enlarged Partial Agreement (EPA) on Cultural Routes. Cultural Routes highlight international cultural connections embodied in works of cultural and natural heritage. Thus, they establish a network of dialogue and cultural tourism across Europe. In this context, special attention is given to themes that are of particular relevance for European integration, history, culture and values. Hence, these transit routes also promote sustainable tourism in destinations off the beaten track.
At present, there are 26 certified cultural routes in Europe, four of which lead through Austria: The Mozart Ways, the Transromanica, the European Cemetery Route and (since April 2014) The Habsburg Route.
In November 2013, Austria hosted the Annual Advisory Forum of Cultural Routes within it’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe from November 2013 to May 2014. Until 2015, Austria chairs the Governing Board of the EPA. Together with the Federal Ministry for Science, Research and Economy, the Federal Ministry for Europe and International Affairs also published an explanatory handbook in November 2013. The handbook seeks to illustrate the added value of Austria’s membership as well as it provides the reader with practical advice on the establishment of cultural routes.