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The European Union has only had even a complementary competence in cultural matters since 1992 and the Treaty of Maastricht. Before this date the Union had of course taken part in one-off cultural projects, such as the restoration of the acropolis in Athens in 1975 or the founding of the European Youth Orchestra. The first real engagement in cultural policy however was in 1985 with the setting up of the European City of Culture programme by the European Council under the motivation of Melina Mercouri. In 1990 a European competition was organised by the Commission – ‘Europe-scène culturelle’. In 1991 this became the Kaleidoscope programme (reorganised in both 1994 and 1996).
In 1992 the European Union treaty allowed culture to be treated as a community competence and gave the Union an appropriate legal base for its work in this area. Using this foundation three programmes were devised in the period 1996 – 1999:
In 1999, as the three programmes drew to a close, the institutions set up a single overarching mechanism called Culture 2000 (for initially five years, later extended to seven).
- Kaleidoscope to encourage artistic creation and European cultural cooperation
- Ariane in the book and translation sector
- Raphaël to encourage Member States actions to support heritage projects