Five weeks after their first video-conference meeting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministers for Culture from the 27 EU Member States e-met for the second time, on Tuesday 19 May, chaired by Croatian Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek. On the Council’s agenda was a follow-up on the implementation of the national initiatives taken to tackle the socio-economic impact of the lockdown measures, that were initially presented in April. Since then, a brand-new platform for Member States to exchange their good practices has been set-up by the European Commission. A second platform has also been established, this time for cultural and creative sectors (CCS) to share needs, information and proposed solutions: Creatives Unite was launched on 5 May within the framework of the Creative FLIP pilot project.
As restrictions start lifting everywhere in Europe, Member States will continue their mapping of existing initiatives to ease the pressure on CCS, by far among the most affected by the ongoing crisis, Minister Obuljen Korzinek said. The need to protect artists and creators must be assured by Member States also by aligning their legislations with the new EU copyright directive, she added. The German Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters made an overview of the priorities of the incoming German Presidency, which will assume office as of 1° July.
Mariya Gabriel, the EU Commissioner for Culture, recalled the three horizontal measures that concern also CCS: the temporary framework allowing State aids, the SURE scheme to support the employment, and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative structural funds, channeled to Member States. They have started being employed by some countries to help their own CCS, the Commissioner said.
On top of the flexibility already implemented in Creative Europe (although much still remains to be done), Commissioner Gabriel stressed that new calls dedicated to CCS are coming soon – i.e., for the cross-border distribution of performing arts works – and that existing initiatives, such as the Music Moves Europe pilot project, will be re-programmed to deliver targeted support to the sector (2.5 million euros), while Erasmus+ will have soon new calls up to 100 million euros that can benefit also the CCS. Synergies with other EU programmes and instruments are to be further developed, especially in light of the next long-term budget, with Horizon Europe, that will have a cluster specifically dedicated to culture, as well as within a newly-created Knowledge and Innovation Community of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT).
As the French-German proposal to put in place a 500-billion euros grants-based recovery plan for Europe made the headlines on Monday, the new 2021-2027 budget was on the spotlight also at the videoconference of the Culture Ministers, as well as at the press conference that followed. The calls for ambitious funding in a longer-term perspective coming from the sectors proved to be received by the Council and the Commission, as Mariya Gabriel underlined the need to reinforce the budget of Creative Europe in a stronger Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). She also pledged to re-consider some critical features of the programme, such as the co-financing rate. “Culture has an important role to play in the Recovery Plan“, she said, echoing pleas coming from several Member States to earmark culture in the recovery envelope that will front-load extra money in the first programming years. Indeed, as Culture Action Europe writes in our position on the post-pandemic MFF, the role of culture and the arts to help build more sustainable societies should be acknowledged and translated into concrete support.
The new MFF proposal that the Commission will publish in the coming days will be a crucial test to see how the EU plans to move forward.