It’s just over a year since the COVID-19 outbreak began and there’s no doubt that the cultural and creative sectors have suffered heavily under lockdown. As a result, both sectors have seen an almost total collapse in activity which has had a tremendous economic impact on their businesses and employees. Almost eight million people across the EU work in the cultural and creative sectors, accounting for over four percent of the EU’s gross domestic product.
The loss in turnover for the sectors last year is estimated to be around 80 percent - and this year’s numbers unfortunately don’t show any signs of improvement. For Europe’s cultural workers - including artists, creators, musicians, live performers, and actors - the situation is dramatic, and many are facing financial ruin.
I am a musician myself, so I know the fears and worries of those who make a living out of their music and live performances. Many are in precarious and insecure work and most of them are self-employed with no regular income and little access to social safety net schemes, particularly for those in non-standard forms of employment.
The European Parliament’s Culture and Education committee is very much aware of these striking developments and, in its resolution of September last year, it urged the European Commission to include the cultural and creative sectors in the current and post-pandemic recovery and revitalisation policies and programmes. It was deeply unfortunate that the Next Generation EU recovery plan did not earmark a specific amount directly for the cultural and creative sectors.
“Culture has not only an economic value, it also has an intrinsic value as an expression of humanity. It strengthens the construction of inclusive and resilient societies, contributes to social cohesion and to open, plural, and tolerant societies”
However, we continue to put pressure on the Commission and EU Members States to earmark at least two percent of the Resilience and Recovery Facility, in their national recovery plans, to the cultural and creative sectors. A positive signal is that Parliament secured an increase in the budget for Erasmus+ and the Creative Europe programmes, both are key vehicles for protecting and promoting cultural diversity throughout the EU.
Still, under the current and future circumstances, more financial means will be needed to mitigate the worsening impact of the crises on the cultural and creative sectors, if we want to save our cultural ecosystems. Culture has not only an economic value, it also has an intrinsic value as an expression of humanity. It strengthens the construction of inclusive and resilient societies, contributes to social cohesion and to open, plural, and tolerant societies. Culture is also an essential tool in the fight against racism as it helps to reduce prejudice and stigmatisations and promotes intercultural dialogue.
Earlier this month we celebrated the 50th anniversary of International Romani Day. Every year this event is celebrated with cultural events promoting Romani culture and its diversity. This is important as very little is known about this ethnic minority’s diverse culture, language, and traditions, which have often significantly influenced our societies. The Spanish Romani, the Calé, for example played an important role in the development of modern Spanish culture, Romani music is part of the Hungarian folk genre, while French Manouche musicians have promoted European jazz.
Even if the Coronavirus pandemic has prevented many cultural events, I am convinced that once we have overcome this current challenge, will see strong demand for cultural activities, as they are vital to our societies. But to rebuild the cultural and creative sectors, they must be actively included in all recovery efforts.