How the EU is funding green travel for artists to move across the Continent

The €21m programme, funded by the European Commission, helps cover travel and accommodation costs for creative professionals, making cross-continent collaboration in the arts easier than ever.
Applications are open to all artistic professionals, including musicians | Caroline Bittencourt

By Ana Fota

Ana Fota is a freelance reporter based in Brussels, with previous work published by The New York Times, POLITICO, Euronews and others.

26 Feb 2024

When Hannah Ely was invited to perform at a Christmas concert in Copenhagen last year, she was met with a familiar task – figuring out a budget-friendly way to get there and finding a place to stay.  

A Brussels-based soprano specialising in baroque and Renaissance-era music, Ely is no stranger to travelling for work – or asking for help in financing these trips.   

“I apply for a lot of funding, especially in the UK,” she says. “Most of the time, I get rejected.”   

But for this concert, she called on Culture Moves Europe, a mobility scheme funded by the European Commission. “You feel more hopeful when you apply for this one,” she says, noting that, as a British national living in the European Union post-Brexit, few funding options are available to her.  

Having uploaded a few documents through the programme’s online portal as part of her application, she received an answer just a few weeks later – her accommodation and transport would be covered.  

“I always say it's a fantastic fund that not enough people know about. It’s quite easy to use and they don’t have a lot of restrictions,” she tells The Parliament.  

You feel more hopeful when you apply for this one.

Only launched in 2022, Culture Moves Europe provides mobility grants for arts and culture professionals across various sectors, including architecture, cultural heritage and design, literature, music, and the performing and visual arts. With a budget of €21m to be spent by 2025, it aims to cover travel and accommodation expenses for around 7,000 artists.  

Grants offered to artists for individual projects include a €75 daily accommodation allowance, and a travel allowance of €350 for short distances and €700 for longer ones.   

Since its launch, the programme has received applications from almost 8,000 artists, of which roughly 1,800 were selected, a success rate of almost 25 per cent. Interest has surpassed expectations and continues to grow, says Malgorzata Szlendak, policy officer in the Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) Creative Europe unit.  

“For a few years, we’ve been exploring obstacles to cultural mobility,” she says, referring to an earlier pilot project that sought to improve mobility for artists across Europe. “Now that we know what those obstacles are, we are trying to overcome them somehow.”   

The mobility scheme is part of Creative Europe, the only EU funding programme focused on the cultural sector. It has been around in its current form for a decade and boasts a budget of €2.44bn for its current 2022-2025 implementation cycle.   

We are not only encouraging [artists] financially but encouraging a change in mindset.

These individual mobility grants are open to artists and cultural professionals legally residing in a country that is part of Creative Europe, and who hope to work on a project with a collaborator based in one of the other 40 Creative Europe countries. They include the 27 EU member states and a few other European countries, as well as Armenia and Tunisia. Artists of over 100 nationalities have applied for grants since the programme’s inception in 2022, according to data from the Commission.  

From the beginning, Szlendak and her colleagues insisted the application process should be accessible and straightforward. “We wanted to make sure Culture Moves Europe has nothing to do with the reputation of other European projects that [need] an entire consultancy to help you prepare your application.”    

 The programme’s main priorities, Szlendak explains, are promoting diversity and climate-friendly travel across the arts. On top of the base mobility grant, which covers transport and accommodation, the programme offers incentives for artists who choose green alternatives – such as trains over airplanes – in the form of a financial bonus that doubles the travel allowance. “With this, we are not only encouraging them financially but encouraging a change in mindset,” Szlendak says.  

Other available top-ups include a family bonus for those looking after children under the age of 10, a visa fee for those who need one to enter the Schengen area, and one for those travelling to EU territories away from the main continent, such as Spain’s Canary Islands, which are situated along the African coast. A particular effort has been made to make artists in those regions aware they are eligible as well, Slendak noted.  

Amine Dhouibi, a Tunisian-born jazz musician, found out about the programme when he performed at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels in 2021. Dhouibi is currently in Berlin for the better part of a month recording new music, courtesy of a Culture Moves Europe grant. “I think there are many opportunities for artists in Europe,” he tells The Parliament. “As long as the art sector is supported, we can find a way to create.”  

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