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Spotlight on the Future (of culture in) Europe

Culture as a driver of social innovation, urban regeneration, education and citizenship is central in Silvia Costa’s approach. Culture should be seen as a resource of inclusion, innovation and sustainable development. She recalled links to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), a committee that was not historically manifestly interested in culture, but there is now a new closer relationship for work on culture.

 

Turning to the future of culture in Europe, she considers that the EU has invested too little in culture in the name of subsidiarity, but since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is able to make actions in this area, not just in defending linguistic and cultural diversity, but also to support integration of Member State actions to valorise our cultural heritage as common roots and recognising culture as a cross-cutting dimension of all policies.

 

From the boost provided by Macron, and also the Italian government (Renzi and now Gentiloni, also Franceschini), there is recognition of the fact that either Europe is culture, or there will be no Europe. The Social Summit at Göteborg did not foresee any mention of culture or education, but now, thanks to the Italian, French and Swedish governments in the Council and the Culture Committee in Parliament, it is starting with a working lunch with Prime Ministers and Ministers of Culture and Education.

 

Costa recalled what President Tusk has said recently in an open letter: “Education and culture are the source of millions of jobs and growth in our Member States and tools to reduce inequalities. But let us not forget that they constitute one of the key pillars of our community. Because Europe is first and foremost a community of culture”. Costa recognised the importance of hearing these words and continued to read from the open letter, “A rich and powerful heritage makes us proud but above all it makes us who we are, Europeans. Without our cultural heritage Europe simply would not and could not exist. Therefore, it is our obligation to nurture culture and facilitate exchanges in the area of education so that our people, with their different cultural and historical backgrounds get to know each other better and inspire each other even more”.

 

Today, faced with the challenges of globalisation, Internet, migration and poverty across the globe, the risk in Europe is to provide only economic, technological or security responses, or to give in to nationalist and populist pressures, marginalising the cultural dimension of sustainable development, the need for intercultural and interreligious dialogue, the source of new economy, the meaning that cultural heritage and creativity and culture in international relations can represent.

 

After the intentional destruction of Palmyra and many other unique sites in the Mediterranean by ISIS, we declared it in the European Parliament as a crime against humanity, not only a war crime, recognising that our roots were lying there.

 

Costa along with her colleagues has fought against the absence of references to culture and for it to be amongst the top priorities of the Juncker Commission. She is also fighting for an effective holistic policy beyond the Creative Europe programme. She commended the successes of the programme and recognises its importance, but it is not a policy, it is a programme. She called for a holistic approach to the culture field.

 

She laid out the three main goals achieved in the past few years:

  1. The celebration of 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and heritage in the sense of tangible, intangible and digital

  2. Pushing forward the cause of Cultural and Creative Industries, e.g. arguing for the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) to include also CCIs. At the moment there is no example of a platform for this, but Costa stated that she was sure CAE would have some suggestions in this area. This was one of our aims in our report on CCIs, for which the Culture Committee cooperated with the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) for the first time in order to approve the report.

  3. The New European strategy, requested by the European Parliament in 2011 and formally accepted by the Council under the Italian Presidency, for international cultural relations proposed by Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Navracsics. She strongly advocated for EYCH as a catalyst for a raising of European awareness of its history, its richness of linguistic and cultural diversity, but also of common roots, values and democratic and peaceful coexistence realised in these last 60 years.

 

Culture can build bridges, create reciprocal awareness and knowledge, critical thinking (so important in these times of fake news), creativity, social inclusion and innovation, new forms of participation and engagement of citizens. This is what we want to see in the next generations.

 

Costa and her colleagues asked in Parliament for these approaches to the EYCH:

  1. A cross-cutting approach through every DG in the Commission. (She is pleased to see that there are now 13 DGs engaged in developing new focal points on culture and cultural heritage)

  2. Highlighting the cultural dimension in each of their actions and a network of sharing

  3. Liaisons with municipalities, cities and regions

  4. Search for a focal point for each Member State

  5. The establishment of a structured network of stakeholders to put forward what they have done at a European level, but also at national level in the Member States, because it is necessary to do more than just appoint a national coordinator for the EYCH, so she suggests having stakeholders in consultative bodies and a larger way to involve citizens, and youth in particular.

  6. Educative budget in Creative Europe

  7. Awareness of citizenship, responsibility and participation

  8. Valorisation of economic and employment potential of heritage

  9. Valorisation of Europe’s heritage and competitiveness in relation to third countries

 

The next meeting of the coordination work at the European level of the EYCH will take place in Milan ahead of the European Culture Forum. Costa remarked that it is the first time that two MEPs (including herself) are included in the coordination at European level, it is the first time that Parliament is engaged at the heart of such an initiative.

 

She considers the European Strategy for International Cultural Relationships as a very promising new framework because we can overcome the borders of Europe, for the first time we can have a framework of resources, programmes, and the four DGs that have never in the past cooperated (DGs International Cooperation and Development; Culture and Education; European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations; and External Relations) are constituting a working group, creating annual action plans with transparency of budget. This brings together the resources of a range of operators, cultural and otherwise.

 

She emphasised a proposal that they brought before the Parliament, asking the Commission to approve in 2018 a new mobility programme dedicated to young professionals, artists and creative persons inside the cultural and creative field.

 

They have also some objectives going beyond 2018, including requesting that at least 1% of the budget go towards culture. It may seem a small goal, but it is also an important step forward.

 

Costa concluded by saying that active citizenship is based on thinking, knowledge, and education and that we have to work together through culture and education on cultural heritage on finding a sense of belonging, but also a source of critical thinking.

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