“A Cultural Deal for Europe” – major initiative by Europa Nostra, Culture Action Europe and the European Cultural Foundation

One year after the first ‘La Rentrée’ debate of September 2019, Europa Nostra, also on behalf of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3., Culture Action Europe and the European Cultural Foundation for the second time brought together cultural and heritage stakeholders as well as European decision-makers to discuss the strategic ways of putting culture where it belongs: at the heart of the European project.

On November 18, more than 500 viewers followed the high-profile online discussion with contributions by representatives of EU institutions, Member States, major pan-European cultural and heritage networks as well as civil society. Based on the fruitful discussions held on this occasion, the organisers have launched on 25 November a Joint Statement entitled A Cultural Deal for Europe: A central place for culture in the EU’s post-pandemic future. The Joint Statement puts forward an overarching and transversal Cultural Deal for Europe, including a series of concrete proposals for realising the potential of culture and heritage as major forces in the EU’s socio-economic recovery and its long-term future.

THE ONLINE DEBATE

The fruitful 2-hour forum was animated by what the moderator Dharmendra Kanani rightly called ‘a stellar cast of contributors’. The discussion was opened with a powerful and inspiring video address by the European Parliament President David Sassoli, who stressed the role of ‘culture as a pivot for recovery, in particular for the green and digital transition but also as the social cement of a post-Covid world that needs to be rebuilt’.

The debate then unfolded through three thematic chapters, animated jointly by key European policy-makers and representatives of the event’s organisers.

CHAPTER 1: CULTURE AS THE DRIVER OF THE RECOVERY OF EUROPE

The first chapter ‘Culture as a driving force for the recovery of Europe’ gave the floor to MEP Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the CULT Committee of the European Parliament, and Tere Badia, Secretary General of Culture Action Europe.

After acknowledging the long-awaited increase of the Creative Europe budget within the next Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2027), Sabine Verheyen stressed “Our goal is to ensure that culture is seen as both as the glue for European democracy but also as a huge sector in the EU economy, key for the recovery of many related sectors, such as tourism and innovation”.

Tere Badia highlighted the current crisis as a window of opportunity to ‘combine creative thinking with effective actions and put culture at the center of reimagining Europe’. She then outlined the meaning of the European Cultural Deal proposal: “On the structural level, it aims at acknowledging the contribution of the sector to the European project, but also going beyond the sectoral perspective and including cultural approaches in the main strategic EU programmes and policies.

MEP Niklas Nienass also contributed to the conversation by stressing that ‘the time for action is right now, when the national recovery funds are being programmed’ and encouraged everyone to actively lobby on the national and regional level in order to increase the funds for the sector.

CHAPTER 2: CULTURE AND PHILANTHROPY

In the second chapter, entitled “Philanthropy as contributor to the Cultural Deal for Europe”, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel and Director of the European Cultural Foundation André Wilkens shared their perspectives on the role of philanthropy as a formative part of the Cultural Deal.

While advocating for the widest possible access of the cultural, creative and heritage sectors to all the financial support provided by the EU in the context of the crisis, Mariya Gabriel argued: ‘However, if we want the Cultural Deal for Europe to succeed, we need to go beyond the inclusion of culture into the recovery funds. This means to rethink our interaction with foundations and enable them to support the sector in another way. In the EU, the potential of philanthropy is not being used as efficiently as in other parts of the world’.

André Wilkens further elaborated on this issue: ‘This extraordinary time could be a moment for European solidarity and sense of belonging. The response to the crisis does not come from the governments only but also from the civil society, creative sector, philanthropic organizations, citizens’. For André Wilkens, the specific contribution of organized philanthropy is to ‘combine and coordinate the efforts initiated across Europe, also on the local level. We can achieve much more in this way, and we can grow out of this crisis with real European philanthropy, or philanthropy with an European purpose”.

Writer and think-tanker Giuliano da Empoli, who recently published the ‘Seven Ideas for a European Cultural Recovery’ paper in Le Grand Continent also contributed to the debate by stressing that “this crisis presents a huge strategic opportunity for Europe to broaden the alliances of positive forces. Tying culture and philanthropy together will help us support positive changes, promote the EU agenda, and make the EU more visible in the world.”

CHAPTER 3. CULTURE AND CULTURAL HERITAGE FOR THE FUTURE OF EUROPE

The third chapter, “Culture and cultural heritage for the Future of Europe”, was introduced by a video message from Clément Beaune, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, who stated: “I am convinced that it is through culture that we can advance the European project. It is on the basis of our cultural heritage that we are building the European sense of unity and belonging.”

This was followed by a forceful intervention from Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, who advocated the “fundamental importance of culture and heritage for the European project’. ‘Culture and heritage are a powerful antidote to all forms of nationalism, populism, totalitarianism. For far too long, the unification of Europe was market-driven and not enough culture- and values-driven. 70 years after the adoption of the Schuman Declaration, it is now the time to put culture where it belongs: at the very heart of the European project.”

The closing remarks were made by Apostolos Tzizikostas, President of the Committee of the Regions. Apostolos Tzitzikostas put an emphasis on how supporting culture means “not only saving the culture, creative and heritage sectors but saving the very notion of Europe itself’. Discussing the current priorities of the Committee of the Region with regards to culture, he specified: ‘We need to call for more support for the cultural, heritage and creative sectors on the EU and national level: earmarking culture in the Next Generation EU via the national recovery and 4 resilience plans, mainstreaming of investment in culture in all relevant EU funds, and actively searching for synergies between culture and other policies, such as tourism, regional policies, education, research.”

KEY TAKE-AWAYS: SPEAKING WITH ONE VOICE AND SEIZING THE MOMENT

A remarkable feature of the discussion was the consistency of the messages repeated across the thematic chapters and by all the stakeholders. All participants agreed that, while the crisis requires creative solutions and visionary approaches, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to change the status quo.

The participants also emphasized that the crisis and recovery should be seen as an opportunity to make a step forward, prepare the sector for the future, and better equip it with means and resources for contributing to the European project. As Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra stated: “We are not just a sector but also a vector for achieving all policy goals and priorities of the EU. We need to unite our efforts and act with more confidence.”

Furthermore, an overarching key message was related to the need for a common stance and coordinated efforts focused on achieving concrete results in a short- and long-term perspective. As pointed out by Sabine Verheyen: “What we need the most at the moment is to have a unified cultural sector. While preserving its diversity, we need common action, common approach, common lobbying, we need data, collaboration and cooperation.” A similar point was brought up by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel: “This is the time for us to stay united and speak with one voice.”

As was noticed by the moderator, the vibrancy of the discussion and the strong engagement of the participants clearly demonstrate the pressing need for such debates and get-together. Most importantly, the growing realization of the common sense of purpose among the stakeholders as well as their urge to act – and to act as a single front – is a highly welcome and timely development. This may very well be the major gain that the COVID-19 has brought to the European culture, creative and heritage sectors, and, simultaneously the key leverage for turning the devastating crisis into a window of opportunity.

NEXT STEPS: JOINT STATEMENT ON A CULTURAL DEAL FOR EUROPE JUST PUBLISHED!

Based on the fruitful discussions held between the cultural, heritage and creative stakeholders and policy-makers on this occasion, the organisers have launched a Joint Statement entitled A Cultural Deal for Europe: A central place for culture in the EU’s post-pandemic future.

In this statement, we propose a transversal and overarching Cultural Deal for Europe, which should demonstrate the EU’s political commitment to place culture at the heart of the European project. The proposed Cultural Deal for Europe aims to mainstream culture across all policy fields to fully realise its potential. It eyes the immediate recovery of our societies with the ambition to build a new paradigm for designing the Future of Europe.

Read the Statement here.

Watch the Online Debate here.

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