Back to work for a European cultural recovery

September 2, 2020, 7:38 am

It’s la rentrée! After a well-deserved summer recess, EU dwellers are getting back to work with busy agendas full of meetings – yet, mostly still remote. And so did the CULT Committee of the European Parliament, that on Tuesday 1st September hosted the representatives of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU connected in video-conference from Berlin, two months after the start of their term-in-office. The five Ministers and Ministers of State attending the CULT debate presented the Presidency priorities and were grilled by MEPs.

Far too little money has been made available to culture and Creative Europe, especially given how much needs to be done,’ CULT Chair Sabine Verheyen said opening the meeting, hinting at the historic deal that was reached by the EU’s Heads of State and Government at the end of July on the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and the Recovery Fund ‘Next Generation EU’, which nonetheless fell short of on ambition for culture and creativity.

Back in July, a resolution by the European Parliament had already been vocal about the need to increase funds in the new MFF for key European programmes, including Creative Europe. In the European Council proposal, it accounts for 1,64 billion EUR, up from 1,52 billion EUR in the Commission’s draft, but still far away from 2,8 billion EUR, as asked by the Parliament. MEPs reiterated such a request. A plea to #doubleforculture has been renewed by the European Cultural Creators Friendship Group of the European Parliament.

We are ready to work constructively with the German Presidency and start interinstitutional negotiations’ to agree on a common position regarding Creative Europe, was the message delivered by many MEPs. ‘However, we expect the Council to show some flexibility and not only expect the Parliament and CULT to do so,’ MEP Verheyen echoed.

Art and culture are essential for tackling societal issues which have come to the fore during the COVID crisis. The Presidency’s priority is to provide cultural and creative sectors with adequate policies and sufficient funding that would allow them to make their contribution to the EU’s recovery,’ Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media Monika Grütters said. ‘Even if Creative Europe does not have to be a recovery programme, it can also contribute to the recovery of Europe, if it is given the necessary funding,’ she added.

The response, however, needs to be timely: ‘We want a smooth transition next year from the current programming period to the next one. What we are trying to do is to ensure that artists, self-employed and organizations in the CCS are in a position to pick up their projects without any delay and to be able to pay those who work for them.’ Much will also depend on whether and how national governments will include culture and creativity in their national recovery strategies, which will detail the way they intend to use the 750 billion EUR of Next Generation EU. Monika Grütters expressed support for the demand to earmark a certain percentage of the EU recovery fund to target culture, as CULT MEPs have been asking, joining their voices to pledges coming from the sector, including that by Culture Action Europe together with the European Cultural Foundation.

Taking the floor, MEPs focused on various topics, including gender equality in culture, international cultural relations, art education, and freedom of artistic expression.

In two weeks, the Parliament, meeting in plenary session, will vote on a resolution on the ‘Cultural recovery of Europe’, following a debate that was held before summer.

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