Speaking today in Vilnius at a conference organised by the Lithuanian EU Presidency on cultural policy, Anton Rombouts (NL/PPE), Chair of the Committee of the Regions' (CoR) EDUC commission and Mayor of the city of ‘s Hertogenbosch, highlighted the potential of culture for growth and development in Europe's cities and regions. He reiterated his call to see culture and creativity better integrated in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
Under the heading "Ready for Tomorrow? Culture as an Agent for Social and Economic Transformation", the two day conference (1-2 October) aims to discuss the role of culture in meeting current social and economic challenges, the need for policy change and adequate public investment, whilst supporting the case for culture and measuring the effectiveness of EU policy in the field. Participants include experts and policy-makers from all levels of government, including Šarūnas Birutis, Lithuanian Minister of Culture, Rein Lang, Estonian Minister of Culture, Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Doris Pack, Chair of the European Parliament's Culture and Education Committee.
Building on his experience as chair of the CoR EDUC commission in charge of culture and rapporteur for the CoR opinion on "Cultural and Creative Sectors for Growth and Jobs", Mr Rombouts emphasised the importance of culture for the local and regional level at a session on "Culture: Relevant But Not (Yet) Evident Enough". He stressed that, "Cities and regions not only provide the bulk of funding for culture in most areas of Europe, but they also act as laboratories for cultural and creative experimentation and innovation, and play a key role in the development of cultural and creative clusters". In this regard he highlighted the example of YES!Delft, a high tech entrepreneurs centre in the Dutch city of Delft which, with the support of the municipality and in partnership with well-established Dutch companies, helps start-up enterprises grow into leading companies.
Mr Rombouts also insisted on the key role of cities and regions in developing and fostering culture, especially in protecting cultural heritage and promoting artistic innovation. "The cultural and creative sector matters to regions and cities and vice-versa. On average, subnational authorities are responsible for 65% of public expenditure for cultural activities and for over 30% of support to enterprises", he explained. He further referred to local authorities' extensive role relating to infrastructure (rehearsal space, performance space, and production space), strategy and planning (cultural strategies, sector development initiatives), support in arts and culture venues and investment in new talent.
In relation to "cultural clusters" or "creative districts", Anton Rombouts underlined the need, "to position cities and regions at the hub of knowledge networks in order to fully benefit from the free movement of ideas, capital and people in the global network economy. Support from local and regional authorities is vital for the development of such clusters, but these also need to be linked into European and global knowledge networks to enhance their effectiveness".
Finally, referring to the series of conferences the CoR has been organising about each of the Europe 2020 Strategy's flagship initiatives, Mr Rombouts pointed out that the role of culture as a necessary catalyser and driver for growth came up in most discussions. With this in mind he called for culture and creativity to become better integrated in the Strategy, particularly through the flagship initiatives "Innovation Union", "A Digital Agenda for Europe", and "An agenda for new skills and jobs".
The conference discussions will contribute to a EU Presidency Statement on strengthening the case for the culture and creative sectors as contributors to social and economic transformation to be issued for the Informal Meeting of Ministers of Culture and Audiovisual Affairs on 2 October 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania.
On 29 January 2014 the CoR will organise a conference entitled "Europe's got talents: Regions and Cities make a difference for culture and creativity". Participants will include policy-makers, experts, representatives of European associations and international organisations, academics in the field of culture, as well as cultural and creative entrepreneurs and artists.
The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives from all 28 Member States. Its mission is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law infringes the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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