To strengthen the position of culture in the run-up to the European Parliament elections, Culture Action Europe (CAE) redoubled its advocacy efforts to include cultural issues in the manifestos of European political party groupings. 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 principal political party groupings: the EPP, S&D, ALDE and the Greens.
Manifestos: What We Know So Far
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 would have benefitted from being 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 recognition 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 S&D manifesto highlights the importance of a rich and vibrant cultural diversity in Europe, with cultural diversity recognised as one of Europe’s strengths and part of its identity. The need for open societies in order to protect minorities (including cultural minorities) and Europe’s diversity is a key topic in this manifesto. Furthermore, culture is included in the context of quality education – a right that must be accessible for all – through the inclusion of an initiative to create European Culture Cheques. This is not the first time the S&D has proposed this idea, which is detailed elsewhere as 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.
S&D also published Cultural Policy Paper, highlighting the party’s vision for culture, education, media, youth and a solidarity-based citizenship.
The EPP manifesto strongly promotes European identity, values and ways of life, as well as Europe’s cultural and linguistic heritage and history. “Cultural richness and diversity” is put forward as an important element of the European identity. The manifesto underscores the essential nature of democracy to cultural diversity and calls for its defence and preservation, before insisting on the protection of “our European way of life” through the preservation of “our Christian values and fundamental principles”. Europe’s roots are thus regarded through the limits of a Judeo-Christian lens, with a lack of recognition of the contribution of non-European cultures or non-dominant cultures within Europe and the interactions, fusions and influences that have been exchanged in the past, that take place in the present and will continue to be developed in the future.