Europe in Recovery: Art for art’s sake

Art, culture and creativity are part of our European identity and have played a crucial role in helping us through the current crisis. Let’s ensure it has the support it needs, writes Sabine Verheyen.
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By Sabine Verheyen

Sabine Verheyen (EPP, DE) is Chair of Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee

31 May 2021

COVID-19 has decimated the EU’s cultural and creative sector. We in the European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee identified the need for additional EU action early last year, and wanted to be sure that help reaches these ravaged areas. We highlighted that the sector is made up of many individuals and SMEs, and that their status often makes it harder for them to qualify for national or EU support schemes.

To ensure EU funds reach the sector, we asked the European Commission to consider increasing the Cultural and Creative Sectors’ Guarantee Facility by topping it up from the 2021 budget or by transferring funds from the European Fund for Strategic Investments. 

“Literature, art, music, dance, poetry - these have all helped people in Europe live through these past months of the pandemic, when social contacts have been strictly limited” 

The changes to the Structural Funds rules agreed by the Parliament before the summer also helped to unlock additional financing. Projects dealing with the impact of the pandemic qualified for 100 percent financing and thematic concentration rules have been loosened, so funds can be more easily channelled to where they are most needed. We have always emphasised that this money must reach the cultural, creative and media sectors quickly by responding to the specific business models and their particular needs.

The Parliament has also adopted several Resolutions seeking to help the sector by adopting specific policies and recommendations. In the autumn, MEPs adopted a Resolution on the Cultural Recovery of Europe, calling on EU Member States to agree that at least two percent from the Recovery Fund should be dedicated to the cultural and creative sectors. 

Parliament also negotiated a sharp increase in the budget for the Creative Europe programme from the next Multiannual Financial Framework - up from €1.46bn to €2.2bn. Since Creative Europe is the only EU programme providing direct support to the cultural and creative sectors and industries across Europe, this is a milestone achievement. We can now support a lot of cultural projects in the next seven years.

Few people would argue that culture and creativity are not essential elements of our European identity. However, they are equally essential for Europe’s economy. Most people are unaware that the cultural and creative industries employ millions of people, that they generate 4.2 percent of EU GDP and are such powerful sources of jobs and growth that they provide nearly 2.5 times more jobs for European citizens than the automotive industry.

The cultural and creative sectors also contribute significantly to youth employment - in fact they employ more young people than any other sector. Both the Commission and Parliament have been working together to form new policies and release funds towards these affected communities. In the Parliament, we will continue to work on Europe’s cultural and creative recovery. We need to remain vocal on the importance of culture for our societies at European, national and regional levels.

Culture is also of systematic relevance. Literature, art, music, dance, poetry - these have all helped people in Europe live through these past months of the pandemic, when social contacts have been strictly limited. Art has helped us through our isolation. Bringing people together, inspiring, soothing and sharing: these are the true powers of arts and culture, the importance of which has been underlined during COVID-19 lockdowns. We must bring this power of culture to the attention of governments and people - it must not be taken for granted. 

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