Where is culture in European Election Manifestos

December 13, 2018, 2:52 pm

To strengthen the position of culture in the run-up to the European Parliament elections, Culture Action Europe (CAE) doubled its advocacy efforts to include cultural issues in the manifestos of European political parties. In the current political climate and in the context of emerging global shifts, the CAE Appeal for the European Elections 2019 calls on all political forces to approach culture constructively and respectfully within the European elections. CAE has been advocating for a holistic inclusion of cultural arguments in the manifestos of four main political groupings EPP, S&D, ALDE and the Greens. To date, two of the four manifestos have been released: those of the Greens and ALDE. The S&D and EPP are likely to launch their manifestos as official campaigning begins in March.

Manifestos: What We Know So Far

The Greens

The Greens Manifesto, adopted at their Council 23-25 November 2018, has taken a thorough and issue-specific approach to culture, where it falls under the dedicated Education, research and culture sub-heading and is given a substantial and balanced treatment. Culture is recognised for its intrinsic value as well as its central role in a democratic society and in addition, access to culture is emphasised as a human right.

Elsewhere in the manifesto, the cultural contribution of migrants and refugees to European societies is highlighted, as well as the fundamental value of respect for diversity, different cultures and languages.


The ALDE manifesto was adopted at the ALDE Party Congress on 10 November 2018 in Madrid, and makes reference to the “tremendous … cultural growth” of Europe as a result of the breaking down of physical borders across the European Union. The one further mention of culture is in terms of the “cultural conflict” pushed forward by anti-liberal forces.

This contrasts with the calls for a Europe “that is rich in its diversity” and “works for the benefit of its minorities”, where reference is made to linguistic diversity, but cultural diversity is unfortunately absent. Cultural diversity represents the opposite end of the spectrum from the aforementioned “cultural conflict”, thus should be openly specified.

Many issues to which culture is central are included, such as education, the digital transition, research and innovation, mobility and cohesion policy. In the case of education, the manifesto recognises the skills needed for the future, although it does not mention that culture has been demonstrably proven to develop these skills (see CAE’s impact review on the Value and Values of Culture). While the manifesto is future-oriented and confronts the challenges and opportunities that we will face, there is a lack of understanding of the key role of culture in these contexts, how culture prepares people for the future and how culture helps us build the future we want.


The Socialists and Democrats voted on 8 resolutions at their Congress on 7-8 December 2018 that will form the basis of their manifesto. While the manifesto itself is not yet available, the resolutions take a reassuringly forward-thinking and innovative approach to culture. This includes, for instance, culture as a means to empower youth, access to culture as a fundamental right and the relationship between culture and democracy. The argument is also made that culture should not be used as an excuse for human rights abuses.

Furthermore, the S&D has proposed an innovative initiative to create European Culture Cheques, a kind of voucher for participation in cultural activities, with the aim of allowing citizens to express themselves and bring forward their own ideas and proposals for democracy and Europe.


The EPP has not yet released a manifesto, but several policy papers were agreed on at their Helsinki Congress on 7-8 November that will feed into their manifesto. These papers have very limited mentions of culture, with only the first of these (A Secure Europe) calling for “European values and its cultural and philosophical foundations” to contribute to “a rational Islam” as well as the cultural “integration” of people of different cultural origins.

It is essential for cultural differences to be understood in the context of Article 22 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which protects cultural diversity. As a Union “united in diversity”, policies that advance inclusion must be promoted consistently, steering away from the marginalising, exclusive policies of integration with the aim of homogenisation.

Furthermore, in the EPP’s second policy paper (A Europe for All: Prosperous and Fair), education and lifelong learning are understood only vaguely, in terms of “quality” without an understanding of the specific skills that need to be developed. This includes, for instance, critical-thinking, creativity and social skills. These set humans apart from AI and advancing technology, and will become increasingly necessary through the digital transition and are demonstrably acquired through cultural participation and artistic education (see CAE’s impact review on the Value and Values of Culture). It is necessary to take this into account if the challenges of the future are truly to be addressed in the final manifesto.

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