Culture, a common thread to guide Europe to 2024 and beyond

The fourth edition of the annual Cultural Deal for Europe policy conversation, entitled ‘Culture is the new energy for Europe’, took place on 28 February in Brussels, welcoming 135 participants on-site and 331 online attendees. Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, addressed the audience with a keynote speech, recognising the need for a Cultural Deal for Europe.

The event was co-organised by Europa Nostra, also in its capacity as coordinator of the European Heritage Alliance, together with Culture Action Europe and the European Cultural Foundation, in the framework of the joint Cultural Deal for Europe campaign. It has been established as an important annual rendez-vous in the EU capital, successfully bringing together Europe’s cultural scene and policymakers to engage in a crucial dialogue.

This year the three partner organisations took the stage at BOZAR, the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, to introduce a discussion on the eight proposals outlined in their joint statement ‘A central place for culture in Europe’s future’. Launched in November 2020, the campaign is an ongoing call from a wider European cultural community to acknowledge the pivotal role of culture in shaping the future of our lives and, ultimately, put culture at the forefront of all EU policy fields.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, addresses the audience at 2023 Cultural Deal for Europe annual policy conversation

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, Lars Ebert, Secretary General of Culture Action Europe, and André Wilkens, Director the European Cultural Foundation, initiated the discussion, dedicating the event to the people of Ukraine. They then passed the baton to Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the CULT Committee of the European Parliament, and Members of the European Parliament Alexis Georgoulis and Marcos Ros Sempere, who took part in an invigorating town hall discussion moderated by Katy Lee, journalist and co-host of The Europeans podcast.

In his impressive keynote speech, Margaritis Schinas highlighted the importance of culture to the European way of life, stating: “In Europe, culture and the arts are the heart of our core civic and social objectives. They impregnate what we stand for: democracy; freedom; tolerance; respect to what is different; belief in a project of coexistence; redressing the errors of history; and revisiting what is wrong about us and making it right. Culture creates a feeling of belonging, belonging to a common cultural space.” His intervention concluded with a stimulating exchange with the Secretary Generals of the organising associations.

Towards a value-based and culture-driven Europe

 

The Culture Deal for Europe campaign takes place at a turning point in Europe, as the European Parliament elections 2024 are approaching, preceded in 2023 by the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Culture and cultural heritage need to be at the core of both debates and strategically associated in the collective effort ahead of this major democratic exercise in Europe.

The importance and urgency of our plea for the Cultural Deal for Europe is greater than ever. We cannot achieve peace, sustainability, social inclusion, and create a dialogue with the rest of the world without culture and cultural heritage”, underlined Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović from Europa Nostra.

Culture provides a renewable energy we need to act, in the EU and globally. It’s the oxygen we need to breathe. It gives us (spiritual) food to create and innovate. And it brings us the meaning, heart, soul and beauty to live and love. Without it we cannot save our planet or humanity”, she concluded.

A sense of togetherness

 

From the climate crisis to threats to peace and democracy, Europe collectively faces a growing number of challenges. Ukraine was front and centre at the debate. “UNESCO has verified damage to 241 sites”, recalled MEP Ros Sempere. “We need to incorporate a stable budget to support the reconstruction of heritage in order to avoid the loss of cultural identity and memory in Ukraine.

Marcos Ros Sempere, Member of the European Parliament, Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the CULT Committee of the European Parliament, and Members of the European Parliament, and Alexis Georgoulis, Member of the European Parliament

Another key issue is the European Green Deal. Much has been achieved since 2019, when culture and cultural heritage did not feature in the EU’s new overarching framework. Now culture has been brought into the equation through the New European Bauhaus initiative. Yet MEP Georgoulis called for even greater ambition, to move from focusing solely on buildings and cities towards “bringing culture into every aspect, in order to create a mindset toward the green transition’’.

2023 Cultural Deal for Europe policy conversation: ‘Culture is the new energy for Europe'

Before giving the floor to poet Amber Setta for the artistic reporting, MEP Verheyen gave some closing remarks. “The European Union is more than a business club and legislative tool. It is something that brings people together, and it does it through cultural exchange. It is important to fight for a cultural deal, to implement culture in all our policies and have this as a common approach throughout the Union, because culture is what brings us forward.’’

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