The Council of Europe - 800 million Europeans

Culture and heritage

The Council of Europe promotes a multiple cultural identity; by implementing and monitoring conventions, setting standards, conducting awareness-raising campaigns and establishing professional networks, it highligts national, regional and local differences and the shared values upon which European citizenship is based. The co-operation programme pinpoints the heritage’s contributions to human development and society as a whole and fosters creativity in the various cultural sectors.


Intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention

In response to the increasing number of social and political conflicts exacerbated by cultural differences, the Council of Europe has launched an Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention project to encourage national, regional and local political leaders, voluntary associations, cultural mediators and the public to share activities which foster understanding between cultural, social and religious groups, in order to defuse conflicts and promote reconciliation. The Council is drawing on academic discussion and practical fieldwork to establish a “forum for dialogue”, ensuring that Europe’s cultural and religious communities in towns and cities or in outlying areas, have equal access to cultural activities.

Cultural policies

The Council of Europe is aware from long experience that Europe's cultural wealth is based both on its diversity and on its shared cultural heritage, so it is perfectly placed to provide authorities and professionals with the tools and the assistance they need to define and implement good practices in the cultural policy field.

  • The European programme of national cultural policy reviews analyses the cultural situation in individual countries and helps them to devise short and medium-term cultural strategies. The programme also gives the Council a broad overview of the cultural problems shared by member states and it uses this information to form general European strategies extending beyond the cultural field. More than half the signatories to the European Cultural Convention have agreed to assess their aims and methods, collect information on them, analyse trends and have this reviewed by outside experts.
  • The Compendium of cultural policies and trends in Europe is the first European electronic information system on cultural policy. It provides facilities for accessing national data and making international comparisons. Its monitoring role offers a systematic approach to current trends and changes, identifying accurate indicators and good practices in areas such as cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue, cultural funding, legislation, participation and access to cultural assets and services.
  • The STAGE Project (Support for Transition in the Arts and culture in greater Europe) was specially devised to support Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in framing and implementing new, dynamic cultural policies and to foster cultural exchanges between them and with other European countries through the twinning of cultural institutions (museums and libraries) and co-operation between towns and cities.

The European Cultural Convention – a framework for action

The European Cultural Convention provides the official framework for the Council of Europe’s work on education, culture, heritage, youth and sport. The idea of a European Cultural Convention, a complement to the European Convention on Human Rights, was first put forward by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The European Cultural Convention was opened for signature in Paris on 19 December 1954 and entered into force on 5 May 1955. It is unique in that it now involves 50 nations – i.e. the Council’s 47 member states plus Belarus, the Holy See and Kazagstan.

The Convention’s main objectives were to safeguard European culture and to develop mutual understanding and the appreciation of cultural diversity among its various peoples. The idea was to use education and culture to heal old divisions, to prevent new conflicts and to strengthen democracy. In the hope that greater unity would be achieved through better mutual understanding among Europeans, the Convention’s initial aims were to:

  • encourage Europeans to safeguard their own cultural heritage (including their language, history and civilisation) and recognise it as part of a wider “European” heritage;
  • promote the mobility of people and cultural objects, in order to boost the understanding of other countries’ culture and heritage;
  • encourage extensive cultural co-operation across the continent.

Three further objectives have emerged over the years; they are:

  • to create the conditions for full participation in democratic life;
  • to introduce a European dimension to cultural standards, policy and practice;
  • to encourage respect for cultural diversity while developing shared values.

The vision of the Cultural Convention was of an undivided Europe. It became a passage through the Iron Curtain and a stepping-stone to full membership of the Council of Europe. For the last 50 years the Convention has promoted extensive international co-operation across the whole spectrum of culture.

The Wroclaw Declaration – 50 years of cultural co-operation

The European Cultural Convention was adopted in December 1954 and the Council of Europe celebrated its 50th anniversary in December 2004. A major conference to launch the 50th anniversary celebrations took place at the Ossolineum National Institute in Wroclaw, Poland, in December 2004, at the invitation of the Polish Authorities during their chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. Wroclaw was a symbolic choice for the Conference because of its long history as a cultural crossroads.

The highlight of the conference was the adoption of a “Wroclaw Declaration”, summarising the Convention’s principal achievements so far and setting out the major challenges and the main lines of action for the future. It focused on:

  • deepening the sense of “European identity” to prevent the emergence of new divisions in a larger Europe;
  • encouraging cultural diversity, civil society and citizenship;
  • promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue as a way of preventing conflicts, aiding reconciliation and ensuring social cohesion.

Cultural activity and economic and social development

The Council of Europe is especially interested in cultural creativity as a means of experiencing identities and differences. It supports pilot projects for the creation and growth of cultural industries on the ground and social integration through cultural activity.

  • The Council’s Creating cultural capital project is designed to promote and encourage cultural diversity and creativity on a European and world scale by offering local cultural producers easier access to the world culture market. Partnership, training and network activities in certain European regions – such as Ukraine and the Russian Federation – highlight the contribution of cultural industries to these regions’ sustainable development.
  • The Council of Europe has chosen the Russian Federation as the site for a pilot project to foster new partnerships between arts organisations and the business community. The Bridges to New Partnerships for Culture project focuses on sponsorship, patronage and the transfer of knowledge and pooling of skills through training courses and research material.
  • Pilot projects are designed to promote cultural identities and cultural expression; through pilot activities, they aim to integrate young people into modern society and to express their identity creatively.

Promoting European cinema

The Culture Committee has drafted the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, which promotes European cinema through high quality co-productions and it has adopted a Convention for the Protection of Audiovisual Heritage, which was opened for signature on 8 November 2001. Ten states have signed it so far and five have ratified it.


Eurimages is the Council of Europe fund for the co-production and distribution of European cinematographic and audiovisual works. It was set up in 1989 as a partial agreement and has 34 members at present. The annual budget is almost 20 million euros.

Eurimages’ prime objective is to support works likely to reflect the many facets of European society, whose common roots reflect a shared cultural background.

Eurimages also provides financial support to an industry which is concerned with commercial success but which is also an art and wishes to be seen as such.

With these two goals in mind, Eurimages has established three funding programmes to support co-production, distribution and cinemas.

Its resources come primarily from member states’ contributions and the repayment of advances. Most of the money (almost 90% of the total budget) supports co-production. Since it was set up Eurimages has supported over 1300 full-length feature films and documentaries. Some of them have won prestigious awards at international festivals. A list of the latest 100 films supported by Eurimages can be found on its internet site.

Support for distribution and cinemas is available to member states which cannot apply for the funding awarded under the European Union’s MEDIA Programme.

Cultural Heritage

Policies for heritage and social change

  • The Council of Europe’s draft Framework Convention on the value of cultural heritage for society places the functions of heritage in the context of “knowledge society” and the globalised economy. It lays down the main lines of heritage policies fostering intercultural dialogue, shared values, and an improved quality of life. Europeans have a joint responsibility for preserving the continent’s wealth of cultural traditions and as many people as possible should be involved in passing on this heritage.
  • The HEREIN European information system is a work tool available to governments, professionals and the public, and offers a series of services using computer technologies such as databases on heritage policies in Europe, a heritage thesaurus, a portal accessing national websites and evolving features such as forums and virtual exhibitions. 42 countries are now involved in the network.

Raising the profile of a multiple European cultural identity enriched by its diversity

The Council of Europe’s projects highlight the cultural foundations of Europe by raising awareness of a common physical and intellectual heritage and by encouraging creativity. It promotes the multiple cultural identity arising from the interaction of the various cultures living side by side on the continent. The Council aims to familiarise Europeans with their common heritage through projects such as the “on the border lines” and “heritage from elsewhere”.

  • Every year in September, the 50 signatories to the European Cultural Convention take part in the European Heritage Days (EHD), a joint activity run by the Council of Europe and the European Union, putting new cultural assets on view and opening up historical buildings normally closed to the public. The cultural events highlight local skills and traditions, architecture and works of art but the broader aim is to bring citizens together in mutual understanding despite differences in culture and language.
  • The Council of Europe cultural routes aim to familiarise Europeans with their cultural identity through high-quality cultural tourism, exploring little-known aspects of the heritage. The Council of Europe officially endorses routes which meet its criteria. It co-ordinates the programme in partnership with public and private bodies. It is assisted by the Luxembourg-based European Institute of Cultural Routes, which acts as a technical resource centre for the development of the routes.
  • The Council of Europe Art Exhibitions promote knowledge and appreciation of European art. Twenty-eight exhibitions have been staged so far, covering the main periods of art history, from prehistory to the present day. The 28th exhibition was launched in 2006 and was devoted to Leonardo da Vinci. Entitled “the Universal Leonardo”, it gave professionals and the public greater insight into this great man and his work in the arts and in science by a variety of innovative approaches (physical and virtual exhibitions, publications, research programmes and teaching material).

Technical co-operation and fieldwork

The Technical Co-operation and Consultancy Programme on the integrated conservation of the cultural heritage is one of the Council’s main means of organising fieldwork and political co-operation in this area. It supports and assists member states through a cross-sectoral, integrated approach to the human dimension of sustainable development, taking account of:

  • spatial and town planning;
  • cultural heritage (monuments, architectural ensembles and cultural landscapes);
  • environment and nature conservation (biological and landscape diversity);
  • regional and local development (economic activity and job creation);
  • culture (preserving and promoting identities, cultural diversity, society’s value systems);
  • social policies (improving housing, infrastructure, public spaces, preventing natural disasters, post-conflict management).

These activities are specific projects, aimed primarily at influencing national policies and encouraging governments to undertake institutional reform and to improve operational approaches and project management tools.

A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe works to promote democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 47 member states.
2002 - The Council of Europe Information Office - Tbilisi.