On October 21, 2020, European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde and Chief Economist Philip R. Lane hosted a virtual listening event with civil society organisations to ensure civil society is included in the ECB strategy review loop. Among organisations working in the fields of democracy, youth, and environmentalism, ECB invited Culture Action Europe as the sole representative of the culture sector to join this session. CAE President Robert Manchin and Secretary General Tere Badia had the opportunity to directly share concerns and pose questions pertaining to the economic condition of the arts and cultural sector.
One highlighted topic was price stability and the need for a more inclusive perspective from the ECB to better understand cultural work and why price stability does not always fit within the normative framework of how cultural agents operate. Instead, an area of key interest is the inflation-adjustment of multiple contracts for independent workers and freelancers. “When we talk about price stability only, we forget that the ECB has a much wider mandate to support general economic policies of the EU. There is even a reference to Article 3 of the Treaty on the EU that calls for full employment for improvement of the quality of the environment, economic and social cohesion, social justice, and protections. However, we hear very little from the European Central Bank about those. Although the main concern is price stability, we think in its communication ECB must expand and reach beyond that message, as price-stability has to serve the well-being of the population,”-stated President of CAE Robert Manchin.”
Responding directly to this statement, President Lagarde underlined the role of culture in the economy, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and outlined the ways in which ECB intends to better reach the cultural sector. “Cultural activities can be an incredibly powerful media for monetary policy (…and they make)an economic sector of our societies. We are seeing it now as we are navigating this storm of Covid-19. A lot of cultural activities are on hold and a lot of cultural actors are left on the sidelines without much support, which is a real concern.”
In response to Manchin’s comments about expanding upon the ECB’s focus beyond price stability, Lagarde echoed the importance of supporting the cultural sector. However, in response, she simply offered, “The issue of price stability is important for us all, whatever sectors, whatever position, whatever function we have in society.”
Replying to the second topic of the session focusing on “Global Challenges”, Tere Badia referred to the European Green Deal, specifically as it pertains to sustainable and economical development. Alongside the European Green Deal, as Badia proposed, there should be a European Cultural Deal touching upon the very value of culture, that of ensuring diversity in our societies. This involves a paradigm shift in which to include a cultural dimension in the reflection about the way capitalism functions and the way economic goals are prioritised. Centering this point, Badia stated, “There’s the work of non-profit organizations, independent artists and cultural workers and there is sufficient qualitative and quantitative evidence about culture’s impact on strengthening communities, representing diversity as a crucial pillar of the European identity…The present social and economic model, to put it bluntly, is completely broken. We think that, in order to hold Europe together, the European project should be enhancing the quality and secure socio-economical environment and cultural rights.”
In addition to the opportunity to interact directly with President Lagarde and Chief Economist Lane, CAE also sent a written submission to the European Central Bank in order to continue the ongoing discussion about the need for clearer communication regarding what ECB policies mean for civil society and upholding democracy in Europe. We believe that including a cultural dimension in the reflection about the way the current economic system functions and social goals are achieved is to be prioritised.
CAE submission to ECB can be downloaded here.