With the public health situation in the EU rapidly improving and the target of 70% of the adult population almost reached, it is high time to explore ways to safely reactivate the cultural life in Europe while monitoring the risk posed by mutations of the virus such as the Delta variant. Responding to calls coming from the cultural ecosystem (including the open letter by 110+ organisations coordinated by Culture Action Europe, as well as the joint statement by the live music and performing sectors), the European Commission has taken the initiative this week to propose coordinated measures for a safe reopening of cultural settings.
“Culture has helped people cope with the impacts of lockdown and social distancing, thanks to the engagement and creativity of CCSI reaching audiences in innovative virtual environments,” reads the Commission’s Communication containing EU guidelines to facilitate the safe resumption of activities in the cultural and creative sectors across the EU. The guidelines aim to provide a coordinated approach in line with the specific national, regional and local conditions. They are expected to guide the design and implementation of measures and protocols in EU countries and cover two dimensions: the safe reopening of the cultural sectors and their sustainable recovery.
The EU guidelines are based on the expertise of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and recommend a common approach, but are not binding for the Member States. They provide indicators and criteria to be taken into account when planning the resumption of certain activities, such as the viral circulation, the vaccine coverage, the use of protective measures such as face masks, and the use of contact tracing and swab tests, (in a way similar to the EU Digital Certificate for the resumption of free movement without additional restrictions, that is in force since 1 July). Among the measures suggested by the guidelines, there is also the development of preparedness plans as well as health protocols allowing the restart of cultural live events.
The best way to start the recovery of one of the most affected sectors by the pandemic is to let it restart its activities and to allow people to participate in culture again. In particular, trial events organised in various cultural settings across the EU have demonstrated that few COVID-19 cases have been associated with transmission at or around cultural events.
The reopening of cultural settings and restart of cultural life in Europe also needs to be accompanied by a better regulatory framework for artists, cultural and creative workers, and new and more sustainable funding opportunities. These are among the policy recommendations included in the EU’s Communication. While the EU’s executive branch did not feature the inclusion of culture among the criteria against which to evaluate the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, this document reiterates the call to Member States “to take full advantage of the Recovery and Resilience Facility to enable recovery from the negative impact of the pandemic and to make the CCSI more resilient to future crises by addressing the structural challenges they face.” In the past months, at the time when the political discussion on the elaboration of NRRPs was still ongoing, Culture Action Europe had mobilised more than 110 European cultural networks to urge Member States and the Commission to ensure that culture is included in the national plans, by dedicating to it at least 2% of each NRRP.
The EU Commission Communication can be found here.