The Committee of the Regions (CoR) has stressed that investing in the cultural and creative sector must be part of the EU's response to the financial and economic crisis, and therefore called for a long-term vision for Europe closely linked to culture and creativity. At a conference on "Culture and Creativity - Europe’s regions and cities making a difference" organised today by the CoR, more than 200 participants, including policy-makers from all levels of government, cultural associations, artists and designers, shared success stories from the field and examined their impact on local development.
Against the background of new EU funding opportunities for 2014-2020 and the launch of the new Creative Europe programme, CoR First Vice-President, Mercedes Bresso (IT/PSE), emphasised the growth potential of culture and creativity for cities and regions: "Cultural investment makes a fundamental contribution to economic attractiveness, hence growth and employment, of cities and regions. Research shows that regions with a strong economic development strategy based on culture tend to have lower rates of unemployment. The cultural component is also a decisive factor in improving citizens' quality of life and attracting new arrivals to a city". Mrs Bresso called for a long-term vision for Europe closely linked to culture and creativity: "In order to support this vision, we propose creating a 'European Creativity Forum' to bring together public, private and voluntary groups to examine how Europe can apply creative solutions to local and European problems."
Anton Rombouts (NL/EPP), Chair of the CoR Commission for Education, Youth, Culture and Research, shared his experience as Mayor of the City of s'Hertogenbosch: "I've been fully convinced by my own experiences as a city mayor and confirmed in my belief by several international surveys that cities and regions that invest in culture, sport and education are economically more successful than cities and regions that do not, and that, moreover, these cities and regions do ultimately become safer places to live. Five words, five sectors: ‘culture’, ‘sports’, ‘education’, ‘economics’ and ‘security’. Investments in the first three promote the last two."
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, emphasised how much the impact of the cultural and creative sectors on regions and cities goes beyond economic benefits: "We can of course measure the impact of the cultural and creative sectors by their contribution to conventional economic growth. But we can also see a deeper and more enduring value, whereby culture promotes the creativity of societies, shapes the unique identity of cities and regions, enhances the quality of life and enriches the image and prestige of a place. This is why we need an integrated approach to supporting the cultural and creative sectors, involving all levels of governance – and this is why regions and municipalities are central players."
The conference offered the opportunity to share examples of local initiatives demonstrating the manifold benefits of culture for local development. Francisco M. Bernabé Pérez, President of Las Minas Foundation in the Spanish city La Unión, outlined how the enhancement, retrieval and dissemination of the industrial mining heritage of the Sierra Mineral, including the organisation of the International Festival of Cante de las Minas, have become pillars of the cultural and touristic attractiveness of the municipality and Murcia's region.
Conclusions of the debates will be discussed during the CoR plenary session on 30 January, and feed into its contribution to the mid-term evaluation of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the CoR's 6th European Summit of Regions and Cities to be held in Athens on 7-8 March 2014.