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The second cycle of the cultural OMC: 2011-2014

In July 2010, the Commission published a report examining progress towards the implementation of the Cultural Agenda (European Commission, 2010c). In its view, the OMC had been a useful framework for networking and mutual learning among national administrations. However, agreement on identifying specific fields for analysis had been perplexing for some of the WGs, delaying the effective start of their activities. A key challenge was to articulate better the work of the WGs with that of the Council Presidencies and the Commission's own work, and to ensure the effective channelling of the WGs' recommendations into EU and national policy-making. The Commission put forward a number of proposals for that purpose. First, the member states, through the Council, should define both the broad themes and the more specific topics to be addressed by the WGs. Second, topics, ideally stretched out to four years, should be tackled successively, in order to allow the member states to identify the discussions in which they were genuinely interested, and be associated with well-defined outputs (e.g. reports, good practice compendia, policy manuals) and thorough dissemination plans. Third, group members (i.e. experts from the academia, civil society and/or public officials) should be closely linked to national policy-making structures. Moreover, each WG should determine its working methods, encourage discussion in small groups and be chaired by president(s) following nomination and agreement by the CAC.

In the wake of the Commission's report, the Council revised the priority areas for action by means of a cultural work plan for the period 20112014 (Council, 2010). These included: cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and accessible and inclusive culture (priority A); CCIs (priority B); skills and mobility (priority C); cultural heritage, including mobility of collections (priority D); culture in external relations (priority E); and culture statistics (priority F). Agreement was reached on connecting a new OMC round to priorities A-D. Three WGs were envisaged for each of priorities A-C and one WG for priority D.3 The work plan determined the mandate of the WGs and also listed their expected outputs.

The principles related to the setting up and functioning of the WGs were similarly revised (ibid.: Annex II). Member states should henceforth select experts with practical experience in the fields of interest and ensure their communication with competent national authorities. Topics should be addressed successively, leading to 'usable' results, and the meeting agendas and minutes of the WGs should become available to all member states. The WGs were encouraged to invite representatives of the three platforms of cultural stakeholders (i.e. the platform for intercultural Europe, the platform on access to culture and the platform on CCIs), engaged in dialogue with the Commission as part of the SD, to contribute to their work. The cultural work plan also called upon the Commission and the member states to regularly consult and inform the sector on the activities and recommendations of the WGs. The Council Presidencies, for their part, were invited to take into account the work plan priorities when developing their programmes and to build upon the results achieved, in particular by organising meetings with senior officials of member states' Ministries of Culture and other policy domains.

At the time of writing, seven WGs had completed their work (WG1, 2012; WG2, 2014;WG4, 2012;WG5, 2014;WG7, 2012;WG8, 2014; WG10, 2012a, 2012b), chaired respectively by France, Slovenia, Estonia, Estonia/Finland, the Netherlands, Hungary and Italy/the UK. Participation generally proved to be satisfactory, but in some WGs, member states' varying degrees of involvement led to certain national policies and practices being analysed better than others (WG4, 2012: 6). WG methodologies included gathering information from a broad range of sources, conducting surveys and interviews and establishing sub-groups on specific themes. Experts from the Commission, civil society and the academia fed the work of some WGs while others organised meetings with representatives of the SD platforms (WG1, 2012: 6). The outputs of the WGs took the form of reports, policy handbooks and toolkits. Whereas some of these focused on providing an analytical framework around the issues dealt with, supported by examples of current practices and key messages, others engaged in presenting good practices and making recommendations for the development of policies and initiatives, through the provision of checklists, factsheets and links to practical information. The target groups of the reports covered policy-makers at local, regional and national levels, the European institutions and cultural organisations.

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