The EUNIC network is at the heart of cultural cooperation in the European Union and carries out various activities in arts, language education, youth, education, science, social studies, intercultural dialogue and development. Employees at Yunus Emre Institute met with EUNIC, an important guest of the digital study visit, at a webinar meeting on 20 November 2020 to evaluate possible collaboration opportunities.
The webinar was attended by Prof. Şeref Ateş, President of Yunus Emre Institute, as well as EUNIC representatives Roxane Schavoir and Robert Kieft, and the directors and employees of the Institute’s headquarters and cultural centres in different countries.
Opening the webinar, Prof. Şeref Ateş, President of Yunus Emre Institute, made the following statements in his speech:
“Today we are looking for an answer to the question ‘Why culture?’ Because culture adds meaning to our life. It brings us together. This idea of unity is very important. What we have experienced over the last 8 months makes this even more meaningful. We come together and meet different cultures through such meetings. Cultural activities also enable us to live this experience and to achieve unity in diversity. At Yunus Emre Institute, we carry out various cultural activities. This is a key opportunity to develop our partnerships and cooperation with EUNIC. We thank them for their participation.”
The webinar started with a presentation where EUNIC’s Global Cluster Manager Roxane Schavoir introduced this important cultural network of the EU. Schavoir shared information on the structure of EUNIC and how the clusters within the network functioned.
She expressed that EUNIC carried out its activities with 36 members from EU countries as well as associate members from other non-member countries. She stated that EUNIC was implementing projects and programmes in 125 different clusters at 90 countries.
Providing information on how cluster projects were funded, Schavoir shared that they made a call for these funds once a year, that the call they made in September this year was closed, and that evaluations started.
Schavoir’s remarks were followed by a presentation from Robert Kieft, director of the European Spaces of Culture, an important project of EUNIC, on the functioning of the project. Kieft also stated that they were trying new models for creative collaboration in many different parts of the world through the European Spaces of Culture project. He stated that they had also started a new study for assessing the impact of implemented projects, and noted that specific methods and tools had to be developed to evaluate partnerships such as cultural cooperation.
After the presentations by EUNIC members came the Q&A session, during which participants exchanged ideas and opinions on EUNIC’s work and cooperation with Turkey. Some of the highlights from this section included the following:
Answering the question on how EUNIC worked with non-EU member countries as an umbrella organization, Roxane Schavoir, EUNIC Cluster Manager, stated that cultural organizations from non-member countries within the scope of clusters could develop and implement projects as associate members.
Sevim Aktaş, Director of Yunus Emre Institute’s Cultural Centre to Rome, stated that they carried out a couple of cooperation activities with EUNIC as an associate member and asked whether the Network had a common strategy for digital works in the new period. EUNIC officials stated that they had not yet developed a common strategy for digital studies and projects, but that they supported digital activities developed locally by clusters. To that end, they stated that funds had been provided for the projects that locally brought together many digital and hybrid, i.e. physical and digital, activities. They also stated that that was the response they developed to the crisis processes, especially during the pandemic, and that the Network was working on a common strategy for the future. As an example, they expressed that they regularly held webinars for information and experience sharing among EUNIC members.
Another question was about the presence of state institutions such as the Foreign Ministries among EUNIC members and how state policies and civicism were balanced when organizing cultural activities. Network representatives stated that when EUNIC was first established, its members consisted only of cultural institutes, but later included state institutions as policy makers. They expressed that they believed the Network was more inclusive and representative that way, and that this enriched diversity at both local and global levels. They noted that state institutions such as the Ministries of Foreign Affairs definitely had political perspectives, but other members also brought a civilian perspective to the table, so they could gather different ways of working and resources. They also drew attention to the fact that at EUNIC they were following EU cultural strategies, and the framework put forward by that strategy made such discussions productive and encouraged working together.
Another question sought information on the emphasis on human-to-human nature of innovative cooperation models referred to in the European Spaces of Culture Project, and how that was implemented. Project Director Robert Kieft reminded that the cultural exchange took place on the basis of the EU Culture strategy and that there was no one-way transfer of EU culture to other countries. He stated that the phenomenon of human-to-human thus actually meant togetherness and producing together. He expressed that was more of a collaborative process, that, for instance, different artists from different countries came together and produced works together. He added that, in the process, the member states did not say they wanted to do those projects with that state as per our foreign policy. On the contrary, the people in those countries came together to develop their own projects and that the concept of human-to-human actually worked exactly that way, as a co-production process.
During the webinar, EUNIC representatives also shared the information that some of the tools and methods they developed to measure the effects of the projects were available to everyone, and that the evaluation Framework Document they had developed for the European Spaces of Culture was accessible to everyone on the EUNIC website. EUNIC representatives also reminded that they shared their experience and achievements through the webinars they organized in different fields, and stated that those meetings were open to anyone who was interested.
At the end of the webinar, it was stated that a good start was made between Yunus Emre Institute and EUNIC for cooperation and to evaluate ideas and opportunities for new partnerships together and to work together, and from now on, new avenues for the said partnerships and collaboration were opened.