The concept of cultural co-operation, founded on a common history and heritage, actuated the European countries just after the Second World War, and culture was among the first of the domains through which it was effected.
Through its active participation in promoting the European cultural identity, the Council of Europe has performed a decisive role in the establishment of cultural co-operation, whose general framework is laid down by the European Cultural Convention. Without supplanting the bilateral agreements already concluded between certain member countries, this is the earliest instrument on cultural matters to be multilateral and European. (AS doc. 237, chapter 4, “Cultural questions”, para . 33)
The origins of the European Cultural Convention
The Committee of Cultural Experts, responsible for the conduct of multilateral cultural projects since its appointment by the Committee of Ministers in 1950 , agreed on the drafting of a general cultural agreement (future Convention) at its 4th session in April 1952.
After its approval in September 1954 by the Committee of Ministers and the Consultative Assembly, the European Cultural Convention was opened for signature in Paris on 19 December 1954. It came into force on 5 May 1955
The Convention sets out a number of objectives (CM (54) 110). First of all, it purports to further understanding of one another among the peoples of Europe and mutual appreciation of their diverse cultural traits, particularly by facilitating the movement of persons and cultural objects. Next, it aims to encourage national contributions to the common cultural heritage of Europe. Lastly, it seeks to promote cultural activities of European interest so as to preserve European culture.
A specific clause deals with European non-member states and the possibility of their acceding to the Convention and participating in Council of Europe cultural work.
Significantly, the great majority of the present member states initially ratified the European Cultural Convention, before they joined the Council of Europe.
The European Cultural Convention has also helped enhance collaboration in this field with other international organisations.
For instance, the Brussels Treaty Organisation wished to maintain close liaison between the two organisations in the cultural sphere, and regularly took part in the meetings of the Committee of Cultural Experts. (letter from Mr Busmann to the Secretary General - May 1950).
Recommendation 31 of the Consultative Assembly adopted on 26 September 1952 at the 22nd sitting invited member governments to conclude with one another cultural conventions similar to those concluded within the framework of the Brussels Treaty (Rec 31).
In January 1953 Dr HJ.Reinink, then a member of the Bureau, suggested to the Secretary General that the Convention be extended to the European member countries of Unesco in order to strengthen co-operation with that organisation .
Timeline of the Convention’s origins
Sources available in the Council of Europe Archives