The network of European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) was formed in 2006 and officially established in 2007 by 19 members. Austria is one of the network’s founding members and under its second President, the Austrian Ambassador Emil Brix, membership of EUNIC increased quickly. EUNIC implements joint projects in the field of inter-cultural dialogue, multilingualism, arts and civil society.
For strategic reasons, EUNIC, which used to be an informal network, became a non-profit association in 2011 that is based in Brussels, has a charter and articles of association that provide for biennial general assemblies involving all 32 current members, a secretariat and a board of directors, featuring a rotational mechanism, chaired until June 2014 by its serving President, the General Inspector for Wallonie-Bruxelles International (Belgium), Charles-Etienne Lagasse.
The objectives pursued by EUNIC include:
- Establishing effective networks to increase the visibility of cultural diversity in the EU
- Strengthening dialogue and cultural cooperation with non-EU Member States
- Promoting the EU’s cohesion within Europe and sharing the Union’s values with third countries through cultural activities
- Implementing cultural projects in partnership with the European Commission
- Advocating the value of culture in international relations
- Deepening understanding and respect between people from different /with different cultural backgrounds
At the moment, 32 cultural institutions from 27 EU Member States are members of EUNIC. Furthermore, 89 “clusters” around the globe are members of EUNIC, most of which are located in cities outside the EU. In general, clusters are set up by at least three local EUNIC members. EUNIC clusters have been established in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. Activities launched by such clusters depend on the relevant local needs as well as the current situation and requirements in their host countries and may therefore vary from country to country.
In order to foster cooperation across the respective host country’s borders, regular strategic meetings are organised that bring together the clusters based in a certain geographic region. Since its inception EUNIC has developed into a key element of member countries’ cultural cooperation with the EU, the European Commission and particularly with the local EU delegations in third countries.
In terms of content, a specific focus of EUNIC’s current activities is the role of culture in conflict, culture and development as well as the intercultural dialogue with China and cultural relations with the Arab countries following the developments triggered by the “Arab Spring”.