One month away from the commemoration of the lockdown anniversary in European countries, the long-standing and renewed debate on participation in and access to culture as a fundamental human right persists. Notwithstanding a budgetary increase of Creative Europe, the only EU programme specifically dedicated to supporting European cultural and creative sectors and cultural cooperation, European cultural and creative sectors (CCSs) remain one of the most affected by the pandemic. Albeit it is one of Europe’s paths for recovery, culture is unlikely to return to full market activity anytime soon.
The joint meeting of the members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, and Education, Mariya Gabriel, was held last week to point out the ongoing repercussions of lockdown on the cultural and creative sectors. Representatives of the European institutions reiterated that the CCSs should be treated as basic commodity producers and should not be penalized by a lockdown. Striving to secure this entitlement will prevent future poor decisions placing culture on the margins.
In response, Mariya Gabriel also spoke of the necessity to work on the future of Europe at a local and regional level: “Being hit particularly hard by the pandemic, cultural and creative sectors need and deserve the best of our efforts. Cities and regions are key allies in this endeavor. With our joint support, we will make sure that culture can and will play a key role in building a greener, more vibrant and more resilient Europe”, – she said.
The CoR called on the EU and the Member States to undertake concrete measures to support, by preparing the revival of the cultural and creative sectors, a European legislative policy in favor of CCSs to facilitate their re-launch. The Committee of the Regions, therefore, calls not only for an allocation of 2% of the funds of the Recovery and Resilience Plan (the call supported by Culture Action Europe and other 110 pan-European cultural networks), but also for an equitable allocation of the other relevant European financial programmes such as REACT-EU and Sure, for culture.
Putting culture back to the economic scene is a must-do, the CCS incurred financial losses of up to 70% in 2020, and a high unemployment rate – according to Apostolos Tzitzikostas, president of the European Committee of the Regions and governor of the region of Central Macedonia in Greece.
In November 2020, the CoR and Commissioner Gabriel and the European Committee of the Regions signed a joint action plan to strengthen cooperation and policy development, high-level conferences and events, peer learning projects, and the design and implementation of the new European Bauhaus initiative.
During the meeting, CoR rapporteur Giuseppe Varacalli (IT/Renew Europe) also presented his opinion on the Restart of Cultural and Creative Sectors. The report urges to ensure that EU funds reach all forms of the culture and creative sector and all those who are involved in creating it. Culture Action Europe contributed to this opinion, highlighting the plea of earmarking funds for culture in the National Resilience and Recovery Plans, as well as underlining the precarious working and living conditions of independent artists and creators, often working on a freelance basis. Many of the principles of Varacalli’s opinion are in line with the “Cultural Deal for Europe”, jointly proposed by Culture Action Europe, the European Cultural Foundation and Europa Nostra (also in its capacity as coordinator of the European Heritage Alliance), and “Beyond the Urban – Contemporary arts and culture in non-urban areas as keys to a sustainable and cohesive Europe” paper, published last year by Culture Action Europe, European Network of Cultural Centres, IETM (International network for contemporary performing arts) and Trans Europe Halles.