Brussels, 10 June 2016
Culture Action Europe has been following the developments concerning the funding of the European Union Youth Orchestra, funded since 1976 by the EU, with concern.
Under the previous Culture programme (2007-2013), the EUYO received funding via the Ambassadors scheme. The Ambassadors scheme was discontinued as a result of the approved changes to the Creative Europe programme (2014-2020).
Along with other former Ambassadors, the EUYO were encouraged to apply under the new Creative Europe framework, ‘disguising’ their core activity to fit the new schemes. The EUYO-led T2020 project was awarded funding as a Cooperation Project, but a second application made in October 2015 was not. The EUYO then announced that they would have to cease activities from Autumn 2016.
In mid-May 2016 Commissioner Navracsics released a statement concerning the EUYO, underlining that competition for Creative Europe funding is extremely strong – and that, according to the evaluation performed by independent experts, other projects corresponded better with Creative Europe’s priorities.
In a press release on 1 June, the European Commission announced that it had found short and long term solutions to keep the European Union Youth Orchestra alive. President Juncker declared “I want to thank the European Parliament for helping us to find the solution […] Together we have shown that we can find creative solutions by overcoming bureaucratic procedures when something is in the interest of our citizens.”
The ‘creative solution to overcoming bureaucratic procedures’ apparently consists of an amendment of the Creative Europe’s current work programme and of the later approval of a Parliament-backed pilot project, supported by the Commission.
Culture Action Europe acknowledges the relevance of the EUYO’s work and its uniqueness.
Nonetheless, we express concern at the manner in which this matter is being handled. It leaves a bitter taste of doubt to how funding decisions can be made and does not address the limits of the Creative Europe programme. Moreover, any negative impact of the case on the Creative Europe Culture budget would be unacceptable.
Other high quality organisations and networks have had to close down or are struggling with minimal budgets following negative funding decisions. They however did not receive such support from the Parliament and Commission. The decision to find a “creative solution” in this case is being viewed as highly unfair and bears the risk of reflecting negatively on the perception and trust in the impartiality of culture funding at an EU level.
The EU project needs the contribution of culture to overcome its dramatic challenges and to help promote a positive image in a phase of growing skepticism towards the Union’s institutions.
If and when ‘bureaucratic procedures’ do not adequately serve the ‘interest of our citizens’ the legislator is in called upon to assess and subsequently reform policy and procedures, not limiting interventions to a particular case.
We therefore call upon the institutions to guarantee the independence and transparency of the decision making process, indispensable for building confidence in equal opportunities for all, involving the sector in a through assessment of Creative Europe and its implementation.