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Final Report Summary - OPENCULT (Managing diversity in the EU: The cultural open method of coordination revisited)

OPENCULT (Managing diversity in the EU: The cultural open method of coordination revisited) ran from February 2014 to September 2016. The project focused on the use of the open method of coordination (OMC) in the field of culture as one of the cultural policy tools employed by the EU in the wake of the European Agenda for Culture in a Globalizing World (European Commission, COM(2007) 242). The project studied the architecture of the cultural OMC and examined its functioning and effects on the cultural policies of the Member States and on EU cultural action.
OPENCULT’s work plan consisted of four phases: phase 1 (state of the art), phase 2 (empirical analysis), phase 3 (data analysis) and phase 4 (dissemination of project results).
The objective of phase 1 was to set the theoretical framework of the project by providing an overview of the state of the art and relevant existing literature on the EU cultural policy, Member States’ cultural policies and the open method of coordination (OMC). In particular, phase 1 sought to contextualise the OMC within the broader debate on EU governance, examine the establishment and evolution of the EU’s cultural policy and explore its relationship to Member States’ cultural policies. The objective of phase 2 was to engage in empirical research on the configuration of the cultural OMC, its development, operation and effects through two distinct cycles (2008-2010; 2011-2014). The objective of phase 3 was to analyse the empirical material collected. As for phase 4, this was horizontal and ran throughout most of the project’s duration. Its aim was to achieve the widest possible diffusion of the project’s scientific and policy-related output and access the project’s potential users and key target groups.
Phase 1 focused on desk research and the compilation and analysis of existing literature and EU documents on the topic of interest. Phase 2 involved the conduct of interviews with the European institutions, Member States’ cultural authorities, and participants in the cultural OMC. It also allowed for the compilation of a range of EU and other documents on the cultural OMC and the collection of additional information through an EU-wide survey which targeted domestic authorities, European policy-makers, representatives of EU-based cultural bodies and institutions, academics and other stakeholders. Phase 3 was about the consolidation and analysis of the empirical material collected. In the framework of phase 4 various activities took place. These included: creating a project webpage (hosted by the website of Maastricht University), using various communication channels for the provision of information on the project and its findings, establishing contacts with key target groups such as Member States’ cultural administrations and European policy-makers for the exchange of views on the cultural OMC and the project’s findings, and communicating research results to scholars and researchers who work on similar topics. This phase of the project also led to the publication of the book ‘Cultural Governance and the European Union: The Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity in Europe’ (edited by Evangelia Psychogiopoulou, http://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137453747) under ‘Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics’, two articles which present and discuss key project findings, two workshops and one seminar.
According to the findings of the research carried out, the cultural OMC is a ‘light’ OMC, compared with those developed in other EU policy areas. Unlike the use of the OMC in the context of other EU policies, the cultural OMC does not feature the setting of targets, the use of indicators and statistics, benchmarking or Member States’ monitoring. Instead, it is characterised by a flexible approach. This entails that the ‘policy coordination’ rationale of the cultural OMC is not that of ‘policy convergence’. It is that of ‘cooperation’: those who participate in the cultural OMC commit to sharing information and experience. The process respects Member States’ cultural autonomy, tolerates policy variation, and promotes elective and selective learning across the Member States.
The cultural OMC has been conceived as a means to structure cultural cooperation between the Member States and to identify and share best practices. Besides these goals, the cultural OMC also seeks to feed national and EU cultural policies through the formulation of policy recommendations. Evidence suggests that the cultural OMC enjoys potential to attain these objectives. The process allows cooperation between the Member States to become more organised and systematic, it enjoys high levels of Member State participation and it covers topics which are found to be relevant to both national and EU policy-making. It also functions in a spirit of partnership and it offers ample opportunities for fruitful encounters, mostly focused on the exchange of information on existing policy practices in the Member States and the development of national and EU policy proposals. Nevertheless, the WGs which are established as part of the process with the aim to work on specific themes are often endowed with unclear mandates. Moreover, not all their members are strictly speaking experts in the field, which can undermine the quality of their output and consequently the usefulness of the process in terms of research and analysis, showcasing good practice, offering policy advice and so on. Generally speaking, improved working formats, strengthened intellectual support, reinforced research capacity, and the conduct of vigorous analysis both as regards the identification of best practices and the formulation of policy recommendations should receive careful consideration so as to bolster the ability of the cultural OMC to fulfil its remit.
Turning to the effects of the cultural OMC on policy-making and the actual attainment of its goals, evidence shows that the process promotes mutual learning, networking and the building of knowledge communities. It also structures Member States’ cultural cooperation, even if this is done on a temporary basis: once the WGs complete their work, there is no instrument or mechanism for building on and following up on the work carried out. The process also appears to have an influence on Member States’ cultural policies both of a substantive and procedural nature. Although it is generally difficult to assess and measure the extent of such influence overall, some relevant examples were identified. However, at the EU level, results are much more moderate. Evidence suggests that the process permits learning within the Commission (the Commission participates in and closely follows all WG meetings) but there are relatively few concrete cases demonstrating that the cultural OMC affects the work of the European institutions both in substantive and procedural terms.
The project has reached out to national and European policy-makers, researchers and academics, culture professionals and the wider public. It has done so in order to make its findings widely available, stimulate policy debate, engage in dialogue with communities of interest and also raise the visibility of the Marie Curie actions. Scholars, Member States’ cultural administrations and EU policy-makers have benefited in particular from the insight the project offered into the operation of the cultural OMC and the inquiry into its policy impact.
Project webpage: https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/about-um/faculties/law/departments/international-and-european-law/projects/opencult

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Diana Schabregs, ((Contract) Research & Financial Manager Faculty of Law)
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Record Number: 194266 / Last updated on: 2017-02-07
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