Europe’s cultural and creative sectors accounted for more than four percent of the EU’s Gross Domestic Product before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, more than seven million people were employed in the sector - 3.7 percent of Europe’s workforce. Notably, many workers were self-employed. According to European Commission estimates, the cultural and creative sectors have lost 80 percent of their turnover during the pandemic. The unique dimension of this sector, with its specific economic models, needs, sizes and irregular and mixed incomes, gives it limited access to financial markets.
Today our cultural and creative sectors are in a deep crisis. Many self-employed workers have had to change jobs or find other ways of making a living. At the same time, young people and professionals have had to give up their training due to restrictions imposed by the COVID crisis. It is a total disaster that’s being ignored by decision makers who do not understand how the sector works.
The Council’s refusal of the European Parliament’s proposal to allocate two percent of the recovery plan to the creative and cultural sectors is a clear example of the double discourse practiced by many European decision makers: they love to take pictures with artists and creative works, but when they are asked to save them, they prefer ignoring the issue.
“Losing the creative dimension of our societies and economies would mean losing a powerful tool that makes our Union so unique and our democracies stronger”
To be clear, we are talking about those cultural organisations that keep local communities and historical heritage alive. I’m referring to those dancers, singers, and painters that give life to our cities. I’m also including designers, arts professors, architects, writers, content and digital creators; those who are struggling to sell their work due to the pandemic. Losing the creative dimension of our societies and economies would mean losing a powerful tool that makes our Union so unique and our democracies stronger.
When it comes to solutions, there are several layers to the issues that must first be addressed – starting with funding. Specific and additional resources must be allocated from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, InvestEU, unspent funds at EU level, the Creative Europe programme, the EIB or structural funds. Second, we must channel the resources based on the particularities of the different sectors. You cannot deploy the same financial instruments for a self-employed artist as you would for a large film production company.
We need a mixture of grants, loans and guarantee mechanisms that must be applied across Europe. We need to save German and French cultural industries, but we also need to save the Spanish and Romanian ones too, by providing compatible solutions that do not create further inequalities within the EU. Third, we need to push the sector to identify new ways to express, develop, digitise, and adapt its activities. From new digital platforms for artists, to COVID-19 test-based events, from the digital training of creators to new ways to earn incomes, all solutions should be exploited and deployed in safe conditions.
Last of all, we need to plan for the future; researching, discussing, and identifying new ways for the sector to develop. From copyright rules to the monetisation of online content, from collective rights associations to social bargaining, all must be assessed in the new post-pandemic world.
All those measures should be integrated in a smart recovery plan for the cultural and creative sectors. The Commission should come up with an integrated plan at European level that lays the foundations for the consistent recovery and modernisation of the sector, pushes for more synergies at European level and drives the inclusive digital transformation of the sector’s industries. Without an immediate integrated plan, the sector is going to crumble under its inability to adapt to the new challenges.