Committee guide: Culture has a key role to play in overcoming Europe's challenges

Culture has been overlooked in EU policymaking, but it has a crucial role to play in overcoming Europe's challenges, writes Petra Kammerevert.

Petra Kammerevert | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Petra Kammerevert

14 Apr 2017

It was a real honour to be elected Chair of Parliament's culture and education committee for the second half of this mandate. Silvia Costa, my predecessor, did a great deal to drive the culture and education agenda forward during her tenure.

As I said to my colleagues when I was elected, I intend to pick up where she left off and to bring the same passion and commitment to the role.

The first half of this mandate was all about putting culture and education front and centre in EU policymaking.

Put bluntly, neither received due prominence in Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's 10 political priorities, that is something we have consistently tried to put right. Both culture and education play a key role in fostering mutual understanding and in celebrating diversity, therefore we are proud to have reached a swift agreement to deliver what we hope will be a successful European year of cultural heritage in 2018.

Culture and education are both also key drivers of economic growth and social inclusion, as we have repeatedly underscored in reports on, for example, 'Promoting youth entrepreneurship through education and training' and 'A coherent EU policy for cultural and creative industries'.

We have also been heavily involved in the various legislative initiatives for delivering the digital single market.

We are the lead committee for the revision of the audiovisual media services directive (soon to complete its first reading) and we take a keen interest, and are closely associated with the various parts of the copyright package as it moves through the legislative procedure. 

While some may bemoan the reduction in the Commission's legislative output, if we get the right proposals in the right policy areas you won't hear us complain. Less can also be more.

While we have achieved much in the first half of the mandate, neither my colleagues nor I are under any illusions about the challenges of the second period. Of course, the biggest challenge for the committee and indeed for the Parliament and the EU as a whole are the impending Brexit talks. These will be complex and we take our responsibility seriously.

It will be vital to ensure that beneficiaries of the existing programmes in the field of education and culture - Erasmus+, Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens - enjoy legal and financial security up to and, as required, beyond the UK's departure.

In other words, we need transitional arrangements to guarantee that any financial commitments undertaken by the UK vis-à-vis the EU, and by the EU vis-à-vis UK programme beneficiaries, are honoured in full. The same goes for individuals - whether UK or EU citizens - that have started education or training courses or are taking part in exchange programmes at the point when the UK leaves.

They need to know they can complete those courses or programmes under the same financial and legal conditions as they began them. Of course, we will need to see what happens with existing education and cultural exchange programmes.

Obviously, we would like to see exchanges continue, but we need to see how the situation evolves. It is clear that the UK's future prospective participation in cultural and education programmes must be based on the same conditions that apply to non-EU member states. 

In other words, full adherence to the EU's core values and principles and a full and fair financial contribution to the programme costs are prerequisites for the UK's potential participation after it leaves. I think the key message on Brexit is that, as we move into uncharted territory, the culture and education committee will take a considered and constructive approach.

Brexit may dominate the second half of this legislature, but we are also clear that we have other medium- and longer-term issues to grapple with. 

We are acutely aware of the need to boost skills and improve education across the EU, with a particular focus on digital education and ensuring more inclusive access to the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Education may be primarily a matter for the member states, but we will do our part to ensure the EU supports these aims.

On the three education and culture programmes (Erasmus+, Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens), we have much to do make sure they are fit for purpose, future-proof and adequately resourced going into the next multiannual financial framework.

Indeed, much has been said about the difficult political climate in which we currently operate and the shadows of populism stalking Europe. There is no doubt about the severity of the challenge and 2017, with its pivotal national elections, will be crucial. We have to listen to the people. But we must also be careful not to respond with showpiece ideas and political gimmicks.

In the three programmes that my committee is responsible for, we have three excellent tools for engaging, enthusing and fostering mutual understanding and a sense of Europeanness. We now need to spend less time talking and more time delivering concrete policy and programmes that really work.

I think we also recognise that the Parliament as a whole needs to do more to connect with citizens and stakeholders. We are an inherently open institution. Our committee meetings are webstreamed live and we retain an open-door policy for those who wish to engage with us. We also involve stakeholders in our discussions on opinions and reports, either informally or formally through public hearings.

However, we can always do better and the digital tools of today's world offer us further opportunities that we should look to exploit.

As I look forward to the coming two-and-a-half years as Chair of the culture and education committee, I think it's fair to say there's plenty to be getting on with. It's a challenge my committee and I relish.


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