Policy Papers - Analysis

Policy Paper No. 12 – Cultural relations – Analysis of the EU’s comparative advantages and Central Asian interests

Policy paper No 12 examines the EU’s cultural policy in Central Asia and contrasts it to the cultural policies of other external actors engaged in Central Asia such as Russia, China and Turkey. The paper concludes that the EU’s geographical distance, diverging values and loose cultural ties with the region limit the EU’s ability to establish a deeper collaboration with Central Asian states in the cultural sector. In comparison to the other external powers, the EU especially underperforms in the areas of student exchange, tourism and people-to-people contact. To overcome these challenges, the EU should not only consider visa facilitation options for tourism purposes, but also focus more on areas in which it has a comparative advantage: the arts, research and innovation and the science and education system as a role model.

Furthermore, the paper suggests that the new EU strategy, to be approved in 2019, should provide a more efficient response to the cultural policies and identity narratives of the key external powers engaged in Central Asia. Here, the EU should establish a new and appealing narrative that would integrate the perception of the EU in Central Asia with the perception of Central Asia in EU. The leading theme of this new identity narrative could be the importance of the Central Asian cultural heritage for the EU and the role or the EU as a soft power and important partner for Central Asia.

Did you know?

Many activities have been undertaken by European cultural institutions and embassies to increase knowledge of European culture in Central Asia (e.g. film festivals, concerts), but there are still very few initiatives launched to promote Central Asian culture in Europe.

The main perception of the EU stems from its image as a soft power that does not have an “imperial” geopolitical agenda, its significant potential and reputation as a business innovator, as well as the enduring perception of European culture and education as being of a high standard.

Stringent EU visa requirements for Central Asia have made their travel to the EU more difficult in comparison to Turkey or Russia, which have no visa requirements for most Central Asian countries.