COST Action ENTER BRIEF No. 5 – A Practitioner’s View / September 2020 – Cultural diplomacy between the European Union and Turkey by Ivanka Vasilevska
Despite Turkey being a candidate-state for membership to the EU for many decades, EU-Turkish relations continue to be strained by geopolitical and cultural differences, as is evident by the dispute over the Eastern Mediterranean, the freeze in accession negotiations, and most recently the change of the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque. However, Turkey is an EU ally in the area of defense, hence it is important to temper current political contentions. This policy brief discusses the use of cultural diplomacy between the EU and Turkey as a means to build bridges between the two societies. As Turkey spreads its sphere of influence in its region through cultural expansion, so must the EU act to restore good public opinion in Turkey. In particular, cultural diplomacy could be employed to a larger degree by the EU to curry favour with the Turkish public, through media, cultural exchange programmes, grant schemes for Turkish citizens and CSOs in the areas of art, language, culture, and music. Furthermore, joint initiatives for the celebration of aspects of common cultural heritage could serve to mitigate the impression of a clash of cultures between the EU and Turkey.