During the debate, prior to the vote, the MEPs highlighted the importance of cultural diversity, the creative industries, an increased budget and the need for more transparency and efficiency when applying to the Creative Europe Programme. Please find below a summary of the debate.
Silvia Costa (S&D, IT) explained that the programme involves 39 countries and the budget has increased by 9 percent for 2017. However, it still only represents 0.15 percent of the overall EU budget. She said that they need to ensure to invest in cultural dialogue, cultural heritage, creating skills, knowledge. The cultural and creative industries represent 12 percent of GDP when including fashion and advertising. It is important for NGOs, SMEs and cultural associations. We need to promote mobility, cooperation for artists and creative people, she said. In addition, they need to create a separate professional status and increasing access to foreign markets as well. It builds on the previous culture and media programmes. Integrating various sectors is under way but unfortunately there is a gap between supply and demand. Audience development is very important. She argued that they need a robust integration of funds from the member states in the programme. Support for culture has to be in the top ten of the Commission’s priorities. She referred to the importance of project evaluation criteria and mentioned that the programme needs to be more transparent. There needs to be a balance between small and large players as well as small and large Member States and participants. We need support for creativity of young people and build upon our history. We need to ensure there are projects linked to social inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers, she said. She also mentioned the need to build partnerships with countries outside the EU, especially in the south. Europe’s heritage is going to become very important. We need to give value to the real skills and abilities we have and help the projects to be distributed, she explained. She also pointed out that there needs to be a better use of cinemas and online distribution of films. Moreover, other multiannual programmes such as Erasmus + and Horizon 2020 have to be linked to the programme. Finally, she also said that they need to recognise the success of the guarantee fund, it has helped the sector but only used by few participants. She expressed hope that more projects will be selected. She asked for more coherence with EFSI. She stated that they need frontloading to have the maximum economic effect.
Carlos Moedas, Commissioner responsible for Research, Science and Innovation, started off by referring to the fact that 2018 will be the European year of cultural heritage. He mentioned the importance of cross-border cooperation, capacity building and awareness raising. It can show the positive impact on Europe’s cultural operators. He stated that they need to reflect on what they have achieved so far and they have to start the work to prepare for the future. They need to keep a critical eye on how the programme is implemented. The recommendations will be taken into account in the ongoing midterm evaluation of the programme. First, the policy aims of the creative Europe is to safeguard diversity. This is the biggest asset the EU has in terms of innovation, science and technology. It will make the European cultural and creative sectors more competitive. We are faced with new political and societal challenges; promoting cultural diversity goes hand in hand with opening up cultural participation beyond European societies. He is happy that Creative Europe has proven to be flexible enough to respond to these challenges. He explained that in 2016, following the refugee crisis, they issued a call for projects helping refugees to integrate. In addition, negotiations with Israel and Tunisia are under way. The report calls for strengthening the cross-cultural and cross-sectorial strands. Key challenges such as globalisation, skills development and access to financing is common to all cultural players. They need to find ways to address these challenges and reinforce cross-sectoral dimension further. He said that they have tried to keep abreast with the needs. Creative hubs are testing how best to promote innovation. As for the guarantee facility, it has been well received with three agreement signed with financial institutions in France, Spain and Romania and more are coming up. As for funding, he acknowledged that the budget is small and this creates frustrations for applicants. The Commission is trying to address this issue. He announced that the Commission is thinking of a dedicated envelope for smaller cooperation projects so they can reach out too little organisations with little experience at EU level. Furthermore, they will make the programme more easily accessible for smaller cultural operators. The procedures need to be simplified and sped up.
Clare Moody (S&D, UK), spoke on behalf of the BUDG Committee. She stated that the programme addresses two of the most fundamental issues they currently face: what are the future jobs going to be? How do we bring people and communities together in these divisive times? The cultural sectors are often rightly cited as the source of jobs for the future. Beyond the imperative of growth, there is a separate work of bringing people together. The programme has taken on the responsibility of supporting social inclusion for refugees. The report highlights the strength of this work and what can be done to improve its delivery. It must have the resources to fulfil its important role in society, she concluded.
Bogdan Brunon Wenta (EPP, PL) said that Creative Europe is a small project with great ambitions and a large scope. Throughout Europe there are 15 000 projects and requests for co-financing. Therefore, the budget should be increased. In terms of the media sub programme, there should be more focus on the digitisation of film heritage and partnerships with film making schools while taking into account authors and writers. Participation in the programme should be more transparent in order to have more projects. We should open up dialogue with the music industry and a specific place should be given to them in the programme, he said.
Luigi Morgano (S&D, IT) stated that the production of quality content and the ability to innovate is very important for youth. It promotes linguistic diversity, supports competitiveness. It is a small programme divided into two sub programmes that are strategically important. In 2016, the CULT Committee adopted a new financial instrument that is trans-sectorial and has already yielded some results. Agreements have been signed to support SMEs in the sector in France, Spain and Romania. Unfortunately, the discrepancy between demand and supply is too big. We need to see an increase in the financial abilities, he said. Creative Europe is a vital reference point for European arts and culture and it is very popular amongst many citizens.
Hans-Olaf Henkel (ECR, DE) stated that this project should not be associated with culture, but with science. He said that that he is familiar with wonderful Italian operas, but not with European operas. He is happy to go and eat in Italy, but have you ever seen a European restaurant in Brussels? No one cheers on a European football team. He said that in Germany, culture is a regional competence, there is no minister for culture. Why do we speak about having a European culture? He stated that that is presumptuous. He is sure there is a great wealth of culture in Europe but there is no European culture. Any attempt to create this is presumptuous. It is diverse as it originates in the regions.
Kaja Kallas (ALDE, EE) stated that creativity in the age of the internet is everywhere. With innovation in robots and AI, one needs more and more creative people. It should be part of every policy. Diversity is key and the EU has that. She said she believes the programme should also nurture this diversity. Most of the funding seems to go to the five big countries with the highest production capacity and those countries want even a larger share of the funding. Therefore, she stressed the importance of being fair and open to all projects and not only those that can be the most profitable and have the widest audience. Consumers in the EU have the same wishes; no consumer wants to wait for 6 months to see a movie on TV. By staying stuck in our current models of film distribution and territoriality, we are not helping the consumers or the makers, only the middleman, she stated. Works should be made widely available online and in movie theatres. It should not be based on territoriality, but on EU wide access.
Martina Michels (GUE/NGL, DE) said that in the report it states that the programme has been a victim of its own success. She argued that the Member States have not properly taken up their responsibility in terms of culture. She addressed Mr Henkel and stated that they do need a European cultural policy that is more than a patchwork on the edge of the EU single market. Our future is not going to be some kind of shimmering economic fabric without anything else, she said. They have to be able to communicate through images and music. She also pointed out that the southern partnership needs to be promoted and more money needs to be marked for the media sub-programme. They need to have the right equipment, room for experimentation and the ability to fail as well. She concluded by stating that culture costs money but the opposite of culture costs much more.
Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE) stated that European cultural policy is based on an understanding of democracy, it is not about racism or ethnicity. It is deeply characterised by equality and cultural minorities. She accused Mr Henkel of barking upon the wrong tree. The interesting aspect is that is about the recognition of diversity, its promotion and putting artists in a position to learn and appreciate the diversity. It is about showing citizens the opportunities they have, it is about recognising that the EU’s creative industry is making a key contribution to this and is part of the investment policy. Culture has to be a key component and the programme must demonstrate the unique value of culture. We have many NGOs working in culture, she explained. The programme needs to be strengthened she said; it is very important that the application procedure should be simplified, particularly for small organisations. There is room for improvement. She also emphasised that the cultural budget is too small.
Isabella Adinolfi (EFDD, IT) stated that the programme has some problems but as a whole it should be seen in a positive light. It creates opportunities for SMEs and she agreed to increase the funding for the programme. She said she does not have a positive view in terms of the 3 million euro in funding that will be moved for cultural heritage in 2018. She argued that they should not funds from one programme that is already underfinanced. She also asked the programme to be streamlined and the bureaucratic requirements simplified. The system of indicators should take account of creative and artistic points, not only economic factors. Creativity, if fully developed, cannot always be subject to economic criteria, she concluded.
Dominique Bilde (ENF, FR) shared some points on the implementation of the programme. It is very complex and has an administrative structure which should be simplified. She welcomed the rapporteur’s ideas on literacy translation which promotes literacy and reading. She supported the reservations on other points. She referred to the funding of integration refugees and said that it is not up to the tax payers to pay for the EU’s mirror ideas on integration. She is also opposed to all increases in the budget. Given the limited funding, the programme should focus on funding European countries and no extending it to other countries. She also stressed that culture also has to stay out of any trade agreements. She stated that they managed to make even the best ideas feel lukewarm.
Lampros Fountoulis (NI, EL) stated that the programme has a nice title but it cannot respond to the expectations of the EU citizens, it is not a real instrument to showcase one’s culture and tradition. He said that in order for a project to receive support, it has to show its political and cultural credentials. The funding for integrating migrants is a covered form of cultural imperialism.
Sabine Verheyen (EPP, DE) reiterated that the programme promotes cultural diversity and project innovation. Culture exchange is something that the regions have always promoted. We are facing massive underfunding, smaller projects are not getting enough funding, she said. We need to improve the financing and simplifying the application. She said that when an application is declined, an explanation should be given to the applicant. In addition, she stated that cultural and creative industries need to be mainstreamed into other programmes such as COSME, EFSI and Horizon 2020. Finally, she pointed out that with the cross-sector approach, there should be an SME and microbusiness sub programme.
Momchil Nekov (S&D, BG) stated that there is too much red tape and too little money and this discourages cultural operators from submitting applications. Only 32 percent of the projects in the media programme receive funding and in the cultural programme it is only 17. As for the funding of literacy translation, he feels discrimination against Bulgarian writers. In Bulgarian bookshops one can see many books of French and English authors but the opposite is far from being widespread.
Julie Girling (ECR, UK) pointed out that the UK receives more funding than any other country through the programme. It is an important part of the UK’s membership of the EU. She said that Cornwall is doing a bidding to be the capital of culture in 2023. She said that she has seen that the cultural capital can bring many advantages. At present the advice is to keep on bidding. Nevertheless, whe said she hopes Cornwall will not spend money on something that is a gamble.
Liadh Ní Riada (GUE/NGL, IE) said she is concerned that the report is not giving enough attention to culture and ultimately the next generation will suffer. She called upon the Commission to tell the truth; the money will not be made available with Brexit happening. She stated that it is time to develop a long term vision for the sector.
Janusz Korwin-Mikke (NI, PL) said that Mr Henkel was right in saying there is no European culture. Everyone is talking about diversity and would like to have diversity but you hand it over to bureaucracy and that has to make it uniform.
Michaela Šojdrová (EPP, CZ) argued that the programme is not about investment in buildings or reconstruction. It is about investment in human capital that pays off. Supporting culture is mainly the task of Member States, but the role of the EU is to make greater use of the European space. It is a great motivation and mutual inspiration they cannot let unused. We cannot be unmoved by the success rate of the programme, she said. She warned against demotivating the applicants. The interest is huge and the contact points do a great job.
Elena Gentile (S&D, IT) stressed that creativity and human capital is all part of the human heritage the EU helped to consolidate. It is the fabric that binds our communities. Culture brings down barriers, it gives value to positive sentiment. It is an opportunity to promote quality jobs. It is not only a question of better resources. She called for a major change in the evaluation criteria: they are too rigid and formal; they can discourage innovation. Culture is all about emancipation. This is an opportunity to defeat the trend against xenophobia. We need to rethink many of the instruments we have, she said. She argued that they have to try and connect the two sides of the Mediterranean through cooperation.
Notis Marias (ECR, EL) stated that respect of national identity is among the basic principles of the Europe of people. 2018 has rightly been declared the year of cultural heritage. Creative Europe connects culture with creativity and helps culture to adapt to the digital era. The EU should put more emphasis on countries such as Greece that were hit hard by the crisis.
If you are interested in reading the full briefing, please sign up for a free trial of the Dods EU Monitoring service.