Under the motto “Together for Europe’s recovery”, Germany is taking up the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union today, Wednesday 1st July. It will serve until 31 December next: this means that its term will be crucial for agreeing on a Recovery Fund that needs to be in place together with the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 by end of the year. Germany is the first country of the new Trio Presidency: it will be followed by Portugal and Slovenia in 2021.
This is Europe’s hour of need and Germany has announced that the key priority of its Presidency will be a compromise deal on the massive recovery programme, paid partly by pooling debt, proposed by the European Commission under the label of “Next Generation EU”. “Germany is committed to the rapid adoption of the MFF and to the swift establishment of a recovery fund in order to bring about sustainable economic and social recovery with ambitious investments in climate protection, research and the digital transformation. In this way, the European Union can address the challenges posed by this crisis and pursue its longer-term strategic goals in a fast-changing world with renewed vigour,” a statement from the Presidency reads.
All eyes are on Germany both in view of the new meeting of the European Council, on 17-18 July – which could find a first agreement on how to finance the recovery, as well as the size of the next budget and its grants/loans ratio. The resumption of negotiations on individual EU programmes for the upcoming cycle also falls on the German Presidency desk.
On the eve of the start of the Presidency, a joint letter by German, French and Italian Ministers for Culture (Monika Grütters, Franck Riester and Dario Franceschini, respectively) has been sent to Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, stressing the need to increase funding for Creative Europe, which in the new MFF proposal has been reduced in comparison to the previous (2018) figures, from 1,64 to 1,52 billion euros. Both the cultural and creative sectors and the European Parliament where calling to double the budget of Creative Europe, the only EU program dedicated to culture, to 2,8 billion euros.
However, there is little the Commission can do at this stage, but for facilitating the dialogue. The ball is in the Member States’ court: they are tasked to strike a complex agreement on the whole financial envelope for the next seven years. It will be up to the German Presidency to fully integrate a revised and more ambitious budget for culture as a priority in its negotiating strategy. It will need to convince the other EU leaders about the fact that culture is a key driver for recovery in Europe so to increase the budget of Creative Europe, on the one hand, and to earmark some funds of the Next Generation EU Initiative specifically for culture in the national implementation plans. This latter plea has been also recently shared by Commissioner Gabriel and European Parliament CULT Committee chair Sabine Verheyen during the Creatives Unite online event, where Culture Action Europe spoke.
“We intend to examine how we can provide even more effective support to the cultural sector, which has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Presidency programme states.
In addition to steering the negotiations on the MFF, Germany will also have to finalise the ongoing talks on the future relationship with the United Kingdom (which, as of today, has not opted to continue its participation in Creative Europe, even if as a third country).
In the field of culture, the Presidency-in-exercise commits to highlight the cultural dimension of sustainable development, and will work on the adoption of Council Conclusions on Gender Equality in the Field of Culture, to improve the participation and networking of women in creative processes. It will organise two high-level conferences dedicated to cultural heritage in Autumn 2020.
The next Council meeting of Culture Ministers is scheduled for 30 November-1 December.
You can follow the Presidency on social media: @EU2020DE, #EU2020DE.