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COVID-19 Solidarity and Emergency Response in Europe

Arts and culture will not be the same after COVID-19. The new situation would require new approaches and solutions at local, national and European level. We must be able to re-imagine the future, despite of the current social, health and economic challenges.

Culture Action Europe and the European Cultural Foundation mapped emergency initiatives and measures carried out across Europe that address the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on culture, arts, creative sectors – with the aim to identify key challenges and possible gaps, or needs, yet unaddressed by the policymakers. With these findings, based on a large number of available resources, we hope to contribute, along the numerous sector-driven initiatives, to a better understanding of this situation, and to try to generate ideas for future scenarios at the European level.

Key challenges for cultural & creative organisations and professionals

Uncertainty now and about the future is the main issue raised by most of the respondents of the CAE-ECF survey. Temporary loss of jobs and incomes, due to closing of art venues, workshops, ateliers and the cancellation of entire programmed portfolios of cultural, educational activities, international mobility, touring, training, and other services, led to serious financial issues. The crisis revealed the vulnerability of the independent cultural sector and the freelance/self-employed artists, cultural and creative workers. Hit by temporary unemployment, and the impossibility to exercise their main occupations, many of them are ineligible for national social security schemes.

How to keep their organisations and businesses working in the situation of lockdown? The survey respondents emphasise they need support for the digital shift, as well as support for reinventing their value chains using novel tools and technology. They feel great uncertainty about the future of cultural and creative processes beyond 2020.

What measures would help the most?

The survey respondents pointed out these measures as vital for their life and work:

  • Governments support for wages for individuals and organisations – to compensate for the losses and temporary insecurity of income;
  • Structural support for cultural and creative organisations (micro, small and medium) – to enable their basic functioning during and after the crisis through specific financing;
  • Temporary tax relief for cultural and creative sectors during and after the lockdown;
  • Flexible subsidies and grants, which are not too prescriptive to work as anti-shock, and give space to recover from the losses and missed opportunities;
  • Measures to enable cultural and creative sectors to switch to new innovative and technological solutions;
  • Other support from philanthropic sector, sponsors, mutual support in the professional communities, support by regions, solidarity initiatives etc.

If no “fresh” support reaches directly the cultural and creative sectors across EU in a short-or mid-term, this would result in deepening the existing gaps and inequalities between these sectors in the different Member States (69% of the CAE-ECF survey respondents reported that emergency support measures for arts and culture exist in their countries. 30% mention that there are no measures in their countries, or that the existing measures do not adequately include cultural and creative workers or organisations). This would increase even further the need for more EU solidarity measures in a long run.

There will be no real recovery if culture is left behind!

The EU should place bolder actions to strengthen the funding available for culture and creative sectors in the Next Generation EU, where culture and creative sectors must be recognized as key areas for EU’s recovery plan. We proposed 7% of the Recovery Fund to be dedicated to culture. As it is unclear yet, how the EU support to the national economic and social emergency mechanisms, would affect the cultural and creative sectors in the EU Member States, we stress that all EU governments should include culture and creative sectors among their priority sectors for immediate response, benefitting by the additional structural funds channelled through Next Generation EU.

Culture and creative sectors – key for EU’s recovery

Creative Europe – a long-standing generator of cultural innovation across EU borders – shall be resourced with larger budget in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

The COVID-19 crisis urges us to design the new Horizon Europe programme towards experimentation and research-driven innovation. This means including artistic research and cross disciplinary processes with other fields in the work programme, and including civil society organisations and other public interest groups in co-designing the programme topics.

New public-private initiatives shall be encouraged internationally, and specifically at European level. Philanthropic sector’s role in the recovery process and re-designing the new realities in arts and culture shall be fostered, and key players in Europe should join forces to enable impact also across borders.

This mapping is a first step, and more analysis will follow – with focus on the role of philanthropy and solidarity in Europe.

CAE ECF mapping COVID19