European Cultural Foundation

The European Cultural Foundation[1] (ECF) is a Netherlands-based independent cultural foundation. Its mission is to “make a tangible impact on civil society, citizen initiatives, public opinion and policy proposals to combat the fragmenting forces jeopardising peace and social progress in Europe”.[2]


The European Cultural Foundation was set up in Geneva in 1954 by the Swiss philosopher Denis de Rougemont.[3] ECF’s first President was Robert Schuman,[3] one of the principal architects of the European Economic Community, which later evolved into the European Union.

From the start, ECF focused on implementing a European grants programme, based on the idea of putting culture at the intersection of education, social sciences and history.

In 1960, ECF moved to Amsterdam at the initiative of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who was ECF’s President from 1955-77.[3]

Since then ECF’s programme has evolved with the shifting dynamics of European politics. In the 1960s, ECF focused on the future of Europe through a youth forum on education and an initiative called Plan Europe 2000.[4] In the 1970s, the emphasis shifted towards student mobility – and from 1987 to 1995, ECF managed the Erasmus student exchange programme.[3]

As Europe continued to expand, ECF’s focus turned to the cultural dimension of European integration and enlargement – encompassing the wider European Neighbourhood and including capacity building work in the Mediterranean area and Eastern Europe.[3][5]

The foundation’s work continues to support cultural exchange and creative expression across wider Europe today, through advocacy work, media activism, partnerships, events and grant programmes. This includes STEP travel grants,[6] which encourage mobility; and the TANDEM Cultural Exchange[7] programme, which facilitates the exchange of cultural managers.[8]

Since 2013, ECF has been working in close collaboration between cultural organisations in Croatia, France, Poland, Moldova, Spain and Sweden as part of the Connected Action for the Commons network[9] this has led to a series of Idea Camps in France, Sweden and Spain – inspiring several special editions of Eurozine.[10][11]

In 2008, ECF launched the ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture[12] to recognise cultural change-makers across Europe. The annual award is made in honour of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, who served as ECF President from 1984 to 2007.[13] Past laureates include the late cultural theorist Stuart Hall, museum director Charles Esche and film director John Akomfrah.

Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands[14] is currently the President of ECF and Extraordinary Member of ECF’s Board.[15]

ECF is a registered charity and is funded by BankGiro Loterij[16] and Nederlandse Loterij[17] in partnership with Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.[18][19]

See also


  1. "European Cultural Foundation". European Cultural Foundation. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  2. "About Us". European Cultural Foundation. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  3. Autissier, Anne-Marie A Brief History of ECF. Retrieved 23 November 2017
  4. Chabert, Jacques. The European Cultural Foundation’s Plan Europe 2000. Long Range Planning, Volume 8, Issue 4, August 1975, Elsevier, pp 23-26. Retrieved 23 November 2017. Purchase required
  5. European Cultural Foundation, Another Europe, Amsterdam, 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2017. See also ECF Labs. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  6. "STEP travel grants". Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  7. "Tandem – culture without borders". Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  8. Our work, European Cultural Foundation website. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  9. Connected Action for the Commons, website hosted by Polish-based organisation Political Critique. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  10. "Eurozine". Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  11. See Eurozine focal points on Fragmentation and Solidarity in Europe and Culture and the Commons.
  12. "European Award for Culture". European Cultural Foundation. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  13. Princess Margriet of the Netherlands
  14. "Princess Laurentien - Het Koninklijk Huis". July 5, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  15. Our Team, European Cultural Foundation website. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  16. "BankGiro Loterij | Win meer, beleef meer". Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  17. "Nederlandse Loterij: Waar heel Nederland wint". Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  18. "Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds steunt cultuur, natuur en wetenschap in Nederland". Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  19. Our Partners, European Cultural Foundation website. Retrieved 23 November 2017
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