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Answering Rightward Shift in 2024 EU Elections: Need for Strong Parliament’s CULT Committee and Culture Commissioner 

The 2024 elections to the European Parliament have confirmed predictions: the composition of the Parliament will not change drastically, but the right parties have made significant gains. Following the provisional results, Culture Action Europe is analysing what this could mean for EU cultural policy. Although votes, which will define the names of 720 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in 2024-2029, are still being counted, the overall trends are becoming clear.

Given the surge of right and far-right parties (European Conservatives and Reformists: 73 seats projected, +4 compared to the last mandate; Identity and Democracy: 58 seats, +9), the EU’s cultural narrative may shift towards a more national identitarian focus, emphasising protection of national cultures, languages, and heritage. This change could come at the expense of cross-cultural exchange, artist mobility, diversity, and a narrative that promotes a pan-European common ground for thriving cultures.

Still, the centre-right European People’s Party remains the predominant force in the European Parliament and the winner of the EU elections (185 seats, +9). They are likely to support initiatives that promote a cohesive European (cultural) identity and preserve European heritage. The current European Commission is also backed by EPP ideologies.

The Socialists & Democrats (137 seats, -2) is the second-largest group in the European Parliament. They are known for their social agenda, championing social justice, inclusivity, and diversity and addressing social inequalities, such as ensuring decent working conditions for artists.

The Greens (52 seats, -19) and the liberals’ Renew Europe (79 seats, -23) lost significant ground. In recent months, concerns have been raised about the Green Deal being moved down the agenda, and now funding for green transition in culture and cultural heritage steps onto shaky ground. Those parties that explicitly prioritised culture in their electoral manifestos and platforms, such as The Left (36 seats, -1) and the European Democratic Party (part of Renew Europe), both of which advocated for allocating 2% of the EU budget for culture, have weakened their positions. 

Nota bene

The EU elections are just the beginning of a dynamic political process. There are currently over 50 MEPs whose affiliations have yet to be officially established. From now on, negotiations to form political groups within the European Parliament will begin, influencing the allocation of roles and responsibilities. This period will involve substantial bargaining, especially as some parties have gained parliamentary representation for the first time, and others may consider joining a political group and thus increasing its size in exchange for more influential positions within the group. This dynamic could particularly strengthen groups on the right side of the spectrum. 

Another critical aspect is coalition formation. In the past, the EPP, S&D, and Renew Europe have formed a coalition to secure votes. However, there have been noticeable flirtations between the EPP and more right-leaning groups. One of the first challenges will be the election of the Commission President, who must garner 361 votes to secure the position. While the traditional coalition of EPP, S&D, and Liberals could theoretically support the frontrunner, Ursula von der Leyen, the secret ballot introduces uncertainty, as some MEPs from ‘friendly’ groups may choose not to support her.

In due time, the new European Parliament will approve the next seven-year EU budget (2028-2034). Culture Action Europe advocates for allocating 2% of the EU budget to cultural initiatives. However, given competing priorities such as defence, security, and economic competitiveness from the right side of the hemisphere, securing sufficient funding for cultural projects may be challenging.

Next milestones: new CULT Committee, new Commissioner for Culture

On July 16-19, during the constituent plenary session, the European Parliament will elect its President and establish various committees, including the CULT committee, which focuses on cultural affairs. It is crucial to have new MEPs join the CULT committee and the Cultural Creators Friendship Group intergroup—an assembly of MEPs from different parties who share an interest in cultural policies—especially since many of the MEPs were not re-elected.

From July 22-25, the meetings of the newly-established committee will take place, during which chairs, vice-chairs, and coordinators will be elected.

The most critical policy development will be the appointment of the new European Commissioner for Culture. Each Member State will nominate its candidate(s) for European Commissioner, with each nominee responsible for a specific sectoral portfolio. In practice, Member States aim to secure the most influential portfolios (economy, competition, agriculture, etc.). Governments typically nominate candidates who reflect the political orientation of the ruling party, although dynamics may vary in coalition governments.

These candidates will then undergo hearings in the Parliament, where MEPs will question and evaluate them, followed by a parliamentary vote on all 27 Commissioners collectively. It is anticipated that a Commissioner will be appointed by/in November. The Commission President will issue a mission letter to each Commissioner detailing the main responsibilities of their respective portfolios.

The current Commissioner for Culture is Bulgarian Iliana Ivanova, but it is common for Commissioners to vacate their posts or change portfolios when a shift in power occurs. The culture portfolio should not be taken for granted; in 2019, the initial distribution of mandates omitted the culture title, and it required coordinated advocacy from the sector to reinstate it. 

Culture Action Europe views the culture portfolio as highly significant. We advocate for a strong Commissioner for Culture with robust responsibilities. In collaboration with the Cultural Deal for Europe partners, we have drafted a proposed mission letter to outline the cultural sector’s vision of the next Commissioner’s priorities.

We invite our members and partners to read and share the proposed mission letter to demonstrate that culture needs active and visionary leadership in the new policy cycle.

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