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Culture and Creativity

International dimensions of cultural heritage

The European Union is committed to promoting Europe’s diverse culture in its international relations.

The 2018 New European Agenda for culture renews the dedication to promote culture as a vital element in EU international relations. The cornerstone of EU’s international cultural cooperation is the joint communication, published in 2016 - 'Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations'. One of the 3 main objectives of the strategy is to strengthen international cooperation on cultural heritage.

This joint communication built on the previous Commission communication from 2014 - 'Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe'. With it, the EU affirms its commitment to advance cooperation on cultural heritage. It also contributes to its protection in cooperation with the Council of Europe, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international organisations.

Cultural heritage is an important expression of cultural diversity and deserves dedicated protection. The EU can play an important role in safeguarding cultural heritage by providing training, skills development and knowledge transfer activities with its partnering countries and regions around the world.

The EU effectively put into practice the principles of the EU Strategy for international cultural relations during the European Year of Cultural Heritage. The year celebrated Europe’s cultural heritage around the world with the support of EU delegations and partnered with non-EU countries for wider outreach and deeper implementation of heritage-related projects. Building on these achievements, the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage operates at 2 levels

  • cultural heritage cooperation targeting specific geographical zones
  • horizontal actions on a worldwide scale

Highlighted projects related to the international dimensions of cultural heritage


The ILUCIDARE project aims to promote and leverage innovation in cultural heritage and diplomacy by setting up an international community of cultural heritage practitioners.

Find out more about the ILUCIDARE project.

Silk Road Heritage Corridors

In 2018, the European Commission (DG DEVCO) launched with UNESCO the Silk Road Heritage Corridors. The project aims to strengthen the contribution of cultural heritage to prosperity, peacebuilding, social cohesion and inter-cultural dialogue in Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan. It represents the International Dimension of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Find out more about the Silk Road Heritage Corridors project.

The Example of Iraq

A report, 'The role of the European Union in the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage in conflict and post-conflict contexts in the Middle East region - The example of Iraq' was executed by the European Centre for Development Policy Management and financed by the European External Action Service's (EEAS) Integrated Approach for Security and Peace Directorate. It is an important step to reflect on how the European Union could enhance cultural heritage as a component for peace and dialogue and how it can be integrated into security strategies, development and peacebuilding processes.

Find out more about the report.