European Spaces of Culture

European Spaces of Culture

European Spaces of Culture

European Spaces of Culture (2019-2023) is testing innovative collaboration models in cultural relations between European and local partner organisations in countries outside the EU. At the heart of the project lies a new spirit of dialogue, in which equality, mutual listening and learning represent the core values that help build trust and understanding between peoples. It was initiated by the European Parliament as a Preparatory Action and attributed to EUNIC by the European Commission.

By testing and evaluating innovative cultural relations work worldwide and gathering policy and practice recommendations, the project contributes to the implementation of the EU strategic approach to international cultural relations.

At the core of European Spaces of Culture lie the pilot projects that are implemented worldwide. The pilot projects follow a process of selection, by means of calls for Ideas. The purpose of the calls is to redefine the idea of what European cultural relations can be, by finding and testing new innovative ideas for models of European Spaces of Culture or to retest and scale up already identified models over the course of three phases of the Preparatory Action (2019-2023). The calls require proposals to be co-created by local stakeholders (e.g. civil society organisations, local cultural actors, etc.), EUNIC members and EU Delegations in the spirit of equal partnership.

Project teams are invited to apply with a cultural relations project outside of the EU and can apply for up to 60,000 euros for the entire project. Project teams need to involve a minimum of three full EUNIC members, the EU Delegation and at least three key local cultural partners.


The Call is implemented in three steps with two selection rounds:

  • Step 1 invites the EUNIC network, together with EU Delegations and local partners, to come together to submit innovative ideas. At this stage, teams need to present a relevant project idea, that is co-created with partners and follows the principles of international cultural relations.
  • Step 2 selects a number of ideas that will be further developed into project proposals. Shortlisted project teams have some time to further define their partnership and proposal. At this stage, teams develop their idea into a project plan that includes more details about the partnership, concrete activity plana, and evaluation and communication strategies.
  • Step 3 selects a number of project proposals to be implemented as pilot projects. The implementation of the pilot actions will also include data collection for the evaluation that will be performed at the end of the projects.

Project idea design toolkit

The Spaces team at EUNIC has developed a toolkit to guide aspiring project teams through some of the main aspects of project design, from identifying the local need to taking concrete steps to set up the partnership. It offers five main guiding questions that are recommended to be discussed and answered jointly by all collaborating partners and includes several thinking exercises and templates to help them develop their partnership and project idea. Find the toolkit here.

Evaluation and policy recommendations

The projects are evaluated with help of a monitoring & evaluation toolkit, designed as pilot for the European Spaces of Culture projects. The findings of the individual projects and the European Spaces of Culture as a whole help continuous formulation of policy and practice recommendations for future policy making (including funding) that will include an evidence-based, suitable process for the future implementation of the European Spaces of Culture initiative. The results of the first phase of the project (2019-2021) were presented at a high-level conference on 1 June 2021, the second phase (2021-2022) at the EUNIC General Assembly in Brussels on 9 December 2022.

The Preparatory Action European Spaces of Culture and its pilot projects aim to seek new ways of collaboration in cultural relations, following a number of guiding principles, which reflect the EU strategic approach to international cultural relations:

  • Encourage people-to-people contacts through a bottom-up approach, based on local consultation and co-creation;
  • Go beyond projection of the diversity of European cultures;
  • Focus on the process as well as on outputs and outcomes: a new spirit of dialogue, mutual listening and learning, where partners are on equal footing and engage in a joint capacity building process;
  • Facilitate learning from and across experiences, including cross-fertilization between the different collaboration models tested.

Expected results

  • Increased people-to-people contacts between European and local stakeholders;
  • Concept of European Spaces of Culture, fostering a continuous process of improvement in cultural relations practices;
  • New collaboration models identified for doing cultural relations;
  • Learn from the pilot projects in order to enhance cooperation and pooling of resources;
  • Evidence-based policy recommendations for European Spaces of Culture as structural financial instrument for European cultural relations;
  • Monitoring & evaluation methodologies for cultural relations activities.

One of the main characteristics of the project is seeking innovation, reflected by the overall Prepartory Action as well as the implemented pilot projects.

The overall Preparatory Action facilitates modern cultural relations:

  • Focus on collaborative process more than outputs and outcomes;
  • Two-step application process, allowing project teams to forge and structure strong partnerships;
  • Cross-border projects are encouraged;
  • International and fully independent selection committee;
  • Dedicated Monitoring & Evaluation methodologies.

The pilot projects bring new perspectives and processes to European collaboration through culture:

  • New concepts or ways of working with local cultural sectors, including digital cultural relations;
  • Projects based on contexts and needs of local communities;
  • Partnerships with new stakeholders, or brought to a new level by bottom-up approach and equality;
  • Ideas on entrepreneurship, profitability and sustainability;
  • Culture as a means for the promotion of values such as artistic freedom (of expression), social cohesion and equality.

Under the first phase of European Spaces of Culture, six pilot projects were implemented to test innovative models of collaboration until April 2021. These projects ranged from building a network of makers' spaces in West-Africa and raising awareness of the danges of air pollution in Mongolia, to co-production and travelling perdormances of contemporary drama in Central America. Explore them below!

First Selection Commitee

The first Selection Committee, selecting the pilot projects for the first phase of European Spaces of Culture. From left to right: Yemisi Mokuolu (Independent producer and creative industries consultant, founder of Hatch Africa), Kateryna Botanova (Cultural critic, journalist, curator, former director of Foundation Center for Contemporary Art Kyiv), Cecil Mariani (Creative consulting, independent artist and design professional; Researcher at the Purusha Research Cooperative and lecturer at the Jakarta Art Institute), Mechtild van den Hombergh (Programme Coordinator Next Generation, Prince Claus Fund – the Netherlands), and Gaelle Sundelin (Project manager, EUNIC cluster Jordan)

Second Selection Committee

The Selection Committee meeting on Zoom on 8 July 2021 to discuss and select the ideas to proceed to the next round in Phase 2 of European Spaces of Culture. Clockwise: Ayeta Wangusa (Executive Director of Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA), creative thought leader, mentor, writer, researcher), Marijana Cvetkovic (Independent cultural manager and co-founder of the Platform for theory and practice of the commons, University of Arts in Belgrade), Joan Álvarez (Creator and director of the Chair of Cultural Diplomacy of the European Institute of Internatonal Studies and Director of the Cultural Diplomacy and International Cultural Relations course at the Ortega y Gasset University Institute), Sabine Longin (Deputy Director, Giacometti Foundation, former cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Doha) and Natasha Ginwala (Curator and writer, Associate Curator at Gropius Bau, Berlin and Artistic Director of Gwangju Biennale 2020 with Defne Ayas. Artistic Director of Colomboscope)

The Creative Labs bring together representatives from the pre-selected project teams. During the first Creative Lab in September 2019, representatives from the ten pre-selected project teams discussed among themselves and with experts how their proposed idea can be elaborated further to be presented as pilot project and how to include monitoring and evaluation (M&E) schemes to bring forward their application. Read more about the first Creative Lab here.

The second Creative Lab, held in September 2021 fully online, brought together the expanded European Spaces of Culture community, with alumni of the first batch of pilot projects sharing their experiences, challenges and tips & tricks with the newly shortlisted project teams. In addition, workshops were hosted on hope-based communication and fair collaboration in cultural relations. Read more about the second Creative Lab here.

The third edition, in September 2022, brought back alumni from the second round of projects to engage with the new applicants, looking into success factors as well as challenges in setting up partnerships, exploring the local contexts and preparing the final projects. In addition, special focus was applied to how European Spaces of Culture projects can contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Read more about the third Lab here.

Paula Matos da Costa (Embassy of Portugal in Guinea Bissau, left) and Yemisi Mokuolu.

Kateryna Botanova and Jan Ramesh de Saram (Goethe-Institut Sri Lanka).

Participants of the Creative Lab in Brussels.

This baseline mapping report presents the results of the mapping process early on in the project. The mapping process has looked at past and current practice of European collaboration in culture, over the past 30 years, both inside and outside of the EU, realised by EUNIC members as well as by other actors or
organisations (e.g. civil society).

Not intended to be a comprehensive inventory of all initiatives that could be labelled as European Spaces of Culture, it rather serves as inspiration for future collaboration projects. The baseline report proposes a typology of collaboration models with examples of projects pre-2019.

Find the baseline mapping here.

The role of culture in EU external relations has been a priority for the EU since 2007. Over the past few years, there has been a shift in the EU’s approach to international cultural relations, with the emphasis being placed in going beyond the notion of presenting the diversity of European cultures and focusing instead on a cultural relations approach based on people-to-people contacts.

A turning point in this process was the Joint Communication "Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations”, jointly published in June 2016 by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, and the European Commission. This document sets the framework for the EU and its Member States’ activities in international cultural relations. It calls for enhanced cooperation between EUNIC, the European External Action Service (EEAS), and the European Commission (EC).

In 2017, EUNIC signed a partnership agreement, an Administrative Arrangement, with the European Commission – represented by the Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (EAC) – and the European External Action Service (EEAS). In the Arrangement, the three parties agree to initiate joint pilot activities to enhance cooperation between EU Delegations and EUNIC clusters.

In July 2018, EUNIC was invited by the European Commission to submit a proposal to test and define the concept of European ‘Houses’ of Culture - later renamed to European Spaces of Culture. EUNIC sbmitted its proposal to the European Commission, in particular the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sports and Culture (DG EAC), in September 2018. It was received positively, and the project was launched in December 2018. On 1 January 2021, the second phase of the Preparatory Action started with the second Call for Ideas.

Further reading

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