EU National Institutes for Culture - EUNIC

European Spaces of Culture

European Spaces of Culture

European Spaces of Culture 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. As a Preparatory Action, it was initiated by the European Parliament. The European Commission attributed the project to EUNIC. By gathering policy recommendations, the project contributes to the EU strategy for international cultural relations.

The Preparatory Action and its pilot projects aim to seek new ways of collaboration in cultural relations, following a number of guiding principles, which reflect the EU strategy for 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.

On 17 January the international selection committee selected five proposals to be implemented as pilot projects. After deliberating all ten applications along the lines of all the selection criteria, the committee chose the five proposals to be implemented and to be awarded 50,000 euros. A sixth pilot project will be implemented as well in Ethiopia under the umbrella of European Spaces of Culture.

The selection followed the Creative Lab phase, during which ten preselected ideas were working on their partnerships and project proposals for implementation. Among other things, they conducted research and organised internal and external meetings to gather input. Some project teams were already testing artistic performances leading up to the pilot projects.

The initial Call for Ideas, launched in April, searched for projects creating a partnership based on equal footing between local stakeholders - from civil society, the public and other sectors -, European cultural institutes (EUNIC), and EU Delegations.

The Call resulted in 42 eligible applications coming from all corners of the world, involving 121 local partners, 30 EUNIC members, and 39 EU Delegations. The proposed ideas covered 51 countries in total, as some focused on cross-border activities. Proposals were based on the values of cultural relations put forth in the EU strategic approach to international cultural relations of 2016, such as engaging in dialogue, mutual listening and learning; people-to-people approach; bottom-up approach; co-creation and joint capacity building.

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.

The independent jury for the selection of projects is composed of experts in the field of cultural relations projects, with varied backgrounds and expertise in different cultural disciplines and lines of work. They met in Brussels for the first selection and conducted the second selection online.

Cecil Mariani

Creative consulting, independent artist and design professional; Researcher at the Purusha Research Cooperative and lecturer at the Jakarta Art Institute.

Kateryna Botanova

Co-curator of CULTURE-SCAPES festival in Basel; cultural critic, journalist, curator, former director of Foundation Center for Contemporary Art Kyiv from 2009-2015.

Yemisi Mokuolu

Founder and CEO of Hatch Ideas, Hatch Events and Hatch Africa; social entrepreneur, Independent theatre and festival producer and creative industries consultant.

Mechtild van den Hombergh

Programme Coordinator Next Generation, Prince Claus Fund; formerly Executive Director DOEN Foundation, Fund Manager for Foundation Tejchevé.

Gaëlle Sundelin

United Nations EERC, social entrepreneur, journalist; Former Project Manager, EUNIC cluster Jordan (Institut français in Jordan).

The Urban Cult Lab’Africa has brought six fab labs – digital fabrication laboratories – in West Africa together to co-design cultural events including artists’ residencies, live events and exhibitions.

Read more here

Triángulo Teatro (Central American European Theatre Circuit) is a programme of theatrical performances which revolve around the contemporary interpretation of European dramatic art.

Read more here

Tibeb be Adebabay (Amharic for Art in Public Space) is a participatory street festival staged in Meskel Square, the main public square in Addis Ababa.

Read more here

Nogoonbaatar Eco Art Festival, the first of its kind in Mongolia, aims to change the critical situation of air pollution in the Ger District, notorious for heavy pollution through coal burning.

Read more here

The lead-up to the next Colomboscope festival, including professional development workshops, mentoring circles, and in-tandem residencies across four regions in Sri Lanka.

Read more here

The Grid incorporates art-thinking into the development of new technologies, jump-starting a conversation between artists, technologists, and policy makers from Europe, Silicon Valley and beyond.

Read more here

Baseline mapping

The baseline mapping outlines past and current practice of European collaboration in culture 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.

Find the baseline mapping here.

Call for Ideas

The Call for Ideas was launched in April 2019 to identify innovative models of collaboration between EUNIC members, EU Delegations and local stakeholders in countries outside the EU. The Call was launched in two phases:

  • Phase 1 identified ten ideas, that were elaborated into fully developed project proposals. The ten selected teams received 10,000 euros to develop their partnership and project proposal.
  • Phase 2 selected five pilot projects out of the ten ideas to be implemented as pilot projects. The pilot projects have received 50,000 euros for their implementation in 2020-2021.

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. Based on the findings of the individual projects and the European Spaces of Culture as a whole, a set of policy recommendations will be elaborated 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 project and the policy recommendations will be presented at the public conference in Brussels in May 2021.


For more information about the project and its process, contact:

  • Robert Kieft (Project Manager) at

On 30 September and 1 October, the Creative Lab brought together representatives from the ten selected project teams. They 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 Creative 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.

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 Global submitted 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.

Further reading