While long-term budget talks are kept hostage by the veto of two Member States and the Commission might have to resort to emergency plans to keep programmes going, on December 1st European Ministers for Culture gathered online in a video-conference to discuss funding prospects for culture and support measures linked to the fallouts of the pandemic.
The ministers welcomed the increase in the budget of the Creative Europe programme for 2021-2027. They also agreed that the national implementation of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the cornerstone of the Next Generation EU 750 billion rescue package,should allow the sector to benefit from the financial support offered by this emergency instrument. Coordinated by Culture Action Europe, 110 cultural networks and organisations have been calling on Member States to earmark at least 2% of their RRF strategies for culture and the CCS. While it is not mandatory in the current version of the RRF Regulation, to date the 2% target has been supported by some of the Member States.
“The cultural and media sectors have been hit extremely hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Our discussion confirmed Member States’ determination to continue supporting them at national and EU level, better targeting of recovery aid, adequate information on funding and flexible approach towards travel restrictions,” German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters said at the press conference following the meeting: if we do not provide a safety net for our cultural ecosystem, “the sector might collapse and not survive through the crisis. All the ministers agree that anything we lose in the crisis will be difficult to recover, which is why we have to take action on the national and European level”. The post-pandemic recovery, however, is also a key opportunity not to go back to broken models but to think bigger and in an innovative way, as we suggest to do with the proposal of a Cultural Deal for Europe.
At the meeting, the Council also called for ensuring that the European recovery funds particularly benefit the projects targeted at the long-term sustainability and resilience of the CCS, and that operators are adequately informed about existing funding opportunities, also through a dedicated app.
In line with the German Presidency’s priorities, the agenda of the meeting also included the issue of gender equality in the field of culture. Ministers also discussed the proposal to amend the calendar of the European Capitals of Culture, on which Parliament and Council will get to vote in the coming days. While current ECOCs Galway and Rijeka are prolonged for six months into 2021, the three 2021 Capitals of Culture have been postponed to 2022 (Novi Sad) and 2023 (Timișoara and Elefsina). While assessing the travel restrictions due to the second wave of the pandemic, some ministers also called for exceptions from travel restrictions for artists and creators across the EU.
While the Portuguese Minister presented their priorities for the upcoming six-month Presidency (ranging from a sustainable recovery for the CCS to the link between arts and education), the meeting was not, however, the final act of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU in the field of culture. If interinstitutional negotiations with the Parliament on the long-term budget goes through, the German Presidency will take part in them on behalf of the Council. A trialogue on Creative Europe is foreseen at the latest by mid-December.