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Culture in times of crisis: exchange of views in the European Parliament

On 17 May the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) held an exchange of views on “Culture in Times of Crisis – Cultural Solidarity in Support of Ukraine and Beyond” with the three initiators of the Cultural Deal for Europe: Culture Action Europe, the European Cultural Foundation and Europa Nostra. The discussion followed up on the proposal to establish an emergency solidarity scheme for Ukrainian cultural workers that had been addressed to the EU governments and Institutions.

The exchange of views explored, together with representatives of the Commission’s DG EAC and the European External Action Service, the situation for Ukrainian artists and cultural workers (both those who stayed and those who left) following Russia’s invasion. Echoing the plea made in the letter, the debate also discussed the feasibility of combining available strategic resources in an innovative public-philanthropic mechanism for emergency support, which could address the immediate needs of the Ukrainian cultural sectors, paving the way for joint response for further emergencies. Ukrainian lawmakers and artists also joined the exchange and took the floor to highlight the situation on the ground, as well as ongoing artistic cooperation projects with EU countries.

With the Cultural Deal for Europe campaign born in the midst of the pandemic and now offering a frame for action during the war in Ukraine, Tere Badia, Secretary General of Culture Action Europe focused spoke of the role of culture in times of crisis. “Our three organisations see culture as a neglected dimension in the analysis of the current crises and in the prognosis of how to overcome them,” she said. “Culture in conflict means making sense of what is going on, maintaining connections to the rest of the world, being able to document and archive realities and collective memories and creating the narrative that will prevail in the times to come; and that is what artists do,” she added. Ukrainian artists are already documenting and archiving cultural heritage, while Russians are deliberately looting cultural goods in an effort to appropriate Ukrainian culture, providing as an example the instance of Ukrainian artists showcased as Russians abroad. 

Taking the floor later on, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, brought forward the key role of civil society in preserving cultural heritage, shared history and values in Ukraine, proposing to follow the principle of the New European Bauhaus when it comes to sustain the reconstruction of Ukraine Whereas, André Wilkens, Director of the European Cultural Foundation, emphasised the need for a joint emergency response mechanism for medium- and longer-term cultural recovery in Europe, as well as more structural mobility schemes like Erasmus+ open to all citizens.

Among the several Members of the European Parliament Reacting to these interventions (see the video below for more details), MEP Milan Zver (EPP, Slovenia) expressed that the EU has to do everything within its power to help Ukraine. “The money has to be used to protect lives but also culture and heritage. It’s one of the most basic values of our Union,” he pointed out

“We have to take action beyond our priorities and sanctions,” MEP Laurence Farreng (Renew Europe, France) underlined, criticising the fact that culture has not not been identified as priority for the EU’s action.

Culture Action Europe, the European Cultural Foundation and Europa Nostra have put a joint statement, in the form of a Cultural Deal for the European Union, calling to mainstream culture across all policy fields to fully realise its potential for the European project: from the green transition to Europe’s geopolitical ambition, and from the digital shift to a value-driven Union. The most recent #CulturalDealEU proposal calls for the inclusion of the emergency needs from the world of art, culture and cultural heritage within the EU humanitarian support to Ukraine and the development of an independent and innovative joint public-philanthropic fund for tackling the emergency.

Watch it again here: