EUNIC members met in their first online General Assembly on 29 and 30 October 2020. They elected a new Board of Directors, exchanged on EUNIC’s partnership with the EU as well as on Associate Membership and approved the establishment of new EUNIC clusters. EUNIC now counts 125 clusters worldwide.
Cees de Graaff, director of DutchCulture, was voted in as the new President of EUNIC. His term as EUNIC president starts immediately and ends with the next General Assembly, scheduled for June 2021. He follows in the footsteps of Roberto Vellano of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The General Assembly also voted in four other new members of the Board of Directors: Guzmán Palacios (AECID) as Vice-President and Treasurer and Petra Kežman (Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Matthieu Peyraud (French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs) and Aušrinė Žilinskienė (Lithuanian Culture Institute) as ordinary Board members. Roberto Vellano will continue his term as Board member until June 2021.
Addressing the General Assembly, Cees de Graaff underlined his commitment to international cultural relations: “My faith in international cultural relations as a condition for international solidarity remains unshaken. We are faced with some major challenges, with amongst others threats to freedom of expression and Covid-19. Covid-19 is impacting the suffering cultural sector. A sector that is in dire need of new business models, cross-international strategies, cross-sectoral collaborations and global solidarity.”
Cees de Graaff’s presidency offers continuity in the Board of Directors, as he has already served a term of two years as ordinary Board member and has been a member of the EUNIC community for the past ten years. With several years of experience as a director of national and international cultural organizations, he brings with him an extensive knowledge of the cultural relations sector. Regarding his role as EUNIC president, he underlined the importance to listen: “Leadership in these times demands the capability and attitude to listen. Listening to different generations, other opinions and listening to colleagues and partners worldwide.”
On the upcoming challenges, Cees stressed he will propose and advocate common initiatives to support cultural sectors and to keep them resilient and agile in times of Covid-19. Cees further said he will focus on stimulating and supporting the implementation of the new EUNIC Strategic Framework as well as the development and implementation of the toolkit for Fair Collaboration in Cultural Relations.
Furthermore, the General Assembly exchanged with Oliver Rentschler, Head of Public Diplomacy at the EEAS, about EUNIC’s partnership with the EU. There was agreement to reinforce the partnership based on the Administrative Arrangement signed in 2017 and to especially enable colleagues on the ground – both in EU Delegations and EUNIC clusters – to commit to joint projects.
EUNIC Network now counts 125 clusters
Six new clusters were approved in Malta, Munich (Germany), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Porto Alegre (Brazil), as well as one merger of the Abuja and Lagos clusters in Nigeria. The network now counts 125 clusters. Clusters are the network’s branches, established where at least three EUNIC members are represented. Clusters engage in cultural relations, co-creating activities with partner organisations.
The General Assembly also discussed the status of Associate Membership on the global level of EUNIC, but adjourned the decision on this. It further confirmed the roadmap that was agreed in the previous meeting in December 2019, recalling EUNIC’s wish to continue to work with the British Council in the post-Brexit scenario. It called for an extraordinary GA to be convened as soon as the conditions allow in order to approve required modifications to the EUNIC Statutes concerning the status of Associate Membership. For the time being, operations and activities in clusters continue as normal.