After failing to reach an agreement at the end of March, leaders of the 27 EU Member States will reconvene again in video-conference on 23 April for an extraordinary meeting of the European Council to discuss the joint response to the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new summit has been prepared by intense talks and negotiations by the Ministers of Finance of the Eurozone, who had to overcome different views on what a joint effort should look like. The compromise reached on 9 April makes no mention of joint debt instruments, while announcing a Recovery Fund worth 540 billion euros “through the EU budget” to kickstart the EU economy.
The ball is still in the court’s of EU countries: the joint statement reads that the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) “will play a central role in the economic recovery.” All of a sudden, lights are back on the EU’s long-term budget 2021-2027, whose figures are still to be agreed by EU leaders.
Waiting for the bigger picture to be clearer, strengthening funds for Creative Europe was indeed mentioned during the extraordinary video-conference of EU’s Ministers for Culture on 8 April, dedicated to benchmarking various ongoing national initiatives to immediately relieve the cultural and creative sectors. These actions range from social measures to protect freelancers, independent artists and cultural professionals, to more procedural arrangements to extend deadlines and change criteria for ongoing projects. Some countries are also setting up compensation schemes – in compliance with EU State Aid rules – and other funds specifically targeting cultural and creative sectors affected by the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Following the e-meeting, Commissioner for Culture Mariya Gabriel announced that the Commission will set up two EU-wide platforms for Member States to share their best practices and for the sectors to come up with their own proposals.
In an effort to reaffirm the European dimension of the struggle, Commissioner Gabriel further stressed on three horizontal measures already adopted by the European Commission which can apply to professionals from the cultural and creative sectors, namely the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the European instrument for temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE), together with the Temporary Framework for State Aid measures to make use of the full flexibility foreseen under State Aid rules. Commissioner Gabriel said that the Commission is also exploring how to adapt the CCS Guarantee Facility to mitigate the effects of the crisis. However, how and in what measure all these funds will reach the cultural and creative sectors remains to be monitored closely.
Looking at the current Creative Europe programme, the Commission confirmed the commitment to ensure maximum flexibility in the implementation of the current projects and sector specific actions like specific measures to support the cinema (5 million euros), the launch of a call for a support scheme of 2 million euros for the cross-border dimension of performing arts, with a focus on digital and virtual exchanges, or an extra fund for supporting the diversity of the European literature. We do hope that this sectoral approach does not undermine the equal support to all cultural and creative sectors and all its ecosystem and that the access to any European emergency funds for Culture proposed by the Commissioner will be granted to all cultural operators.