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Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Investing in culture for jobs, growth and trust in Europe
Greek Presidency Conference on Financing Creativity
Athens, 21 February 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am glad to have this opportunity to share some thoughts with you.
I really regret the expressions of frustration we saw yesterday and I understand those involved in the creative and cultural sectors in Greece.
I do not want to make a long speech about this. But I would like to begin by stating something that is my personal conviction: that culture and cultural professionals are of value to Europe. Culture is the keystone of society and binds it together. Culture gives meaning to what we call 'shared European values', i.e. respect for diversity, mutual understanding and dialogue. Culture gives each one of us our separate national identities and unites us as Europeans.
This is why the EU supports activities that extend culture beyond national borders and helps cultural professionals to exchange experience and create cooperation networks in what is regarded as a 'shared area for cultural cooperation'.
At the same time, during the past few years, we have begun to realise that, with targeted support, cultural and creative activities can have a positive impact on economic growth and job creation. This is of particular value in times of economic crisis.
The European Commission is strongly committed to supporting the cultural and creative sectors through our programmes. We also encourage European governments to continue investing in culture - even in times of austerity and crisis.
Our role in the field of culture is defined and specific. We support the European states and our action is complementary to national policies. We support cooperation and exchange - so that we all learn from good examples but also from incorrect practices. We intervene where our action has added value and helps to tackle common challenges.
We do this because we believe that culture is not a cost or a luxury but a strategic investment for Europe.
A year and a half ago, when I presented a European strategy on Promoting the Cultural and Creative Sectors, I stressed that culture has a huge potential for growth and jobs.
This is why – although the total EU budget for the next seven years was reduced for the first time ever – the new European programme for the cultural and creative sectors,'Creative Europe', saw an increase of about 9 %.
Culture's positive impact on the economy and employment, and the social inclusion and well-being that results from this, make me a staunch proponent of policies that promote creativity in Europe. By that, I mean policies which help create an environment that nurtures creative skills and cultural diversity and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.
Our focus today, I believe, should be on one thing: which practical steps we can take to ensure the sustainable financing of creativity and further promote a regulatory and policy environment where the cultural and creative sectors flourish.
Let me share with you some thoughts about what I consider as 'practical steps' towards these objectives and what we in the European Union are doing in this respect.
Firstly, a good place to start is to build our field of knowledge. We need solid evidence if we are to make the case that investing in creativity yields returns. We need evaluation and measurement methods that capture the range of positive impacts that culture and the arts have on the local economy and on society but also on other sectors of the economy – what we call the 'spill-over' effects. Last autumn, at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission we initiated a long-term research project that aims at exactly that.
Secondly, we need to ensure that all aspects of the operating environment are supportive of cultural entrepreneurship. A recent survey by the European Commission has found that cultural and creative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often lack business and management skills. For example, 60% of those surveyed reported having no business plan.
The new EU funding programmes for the period 2014-2020 offer opportunities in this direction. The 'Creative Europe' programme (the specific programme for the cultural and creative sectors), Erasmus+ (the programme for education and vocational training) and COSME (the programme supporting Europe's enterprises and SMEs) set up targeted support measures to improve entrepreneurial skills among creative professionals: Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs; skills alliances between vocational training institutions and businesses to help develop the right skills for the labour market; training schemes; and other forms of support to innovation, such as creative clusters.
Thirdly, we need to boost the ability of cultural and creative enterprises and cultural professionals to access funding using tools that address their specific needs.
I recognise that this is probably the most difficult and sensitive issue. Funding of the cultural and creative sectors is a challenge, since tailored funding from public and private sources is required. We have seen some interesting examples and initiatives at the conference but there is still a lot to be done.
Reference was made yesterday to the new Cultural and Creative Sector Guarantee Facility, which will be launched in 2016 under the 'Creative Europe' programme and will complement our traditional support through grants. Our goal is to provide guarantees for cultural and creative operators to access bank credit.
It emerged from a recent study we conducted that creative businesses are missing out on billions of euros in credit. This Guarantee Facility will attract cofinancing from public or private funding sources and will use European funding as a lever. With the 121 million euros allocated to this Facility, we hope to generate 5 times more funds for the sector. We also want to help banks gain the expertise they need to correctly analyse the specific risks and opportunities associated with the sector. I hope that banks from Greece will participate in this initiative.
Fourthly, another area we must not neglect is internationalisation and 'cultural exports'. Our small creative enterprises are too often locked into local or national markets, failing to tune into a single European cultural market, let alone global opportunities. Last month, a group of experts from the Member States submitted a report on good practice for successful internationalisation strategies and export support measures in the different Member States. I invite public authorities to examine that report and derive positive examples from it.
Finally, we should not forget that cultural and creative professionals, and artists themselves, are the most important links in the creativity chain. They are the ones behind the films, music, books, plays, operas and all kinds of cultural content we enjoy in our daily lives. It is they who provide the content of our tablets, TVs and smart phones and play a vital role in the digital economy, and the economy in general. We should ensure that their rights are protected, that their investment is sustainable and that they are equipped with the right skills to develop new business models addressing the digital opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now, more than ever, support for the cultural and creative sectors needs to be strategic. I have urged Member States to think in such terms at both national and regional levels. Support for culture must be conceived as part of integrated strategies for regional development. EU structural funds are there to support such smart investments. We should not miss out on such opportunities.
Our success in tapping into the full potential of our cultural and creative wealth depends on our ability to design forward-looking policies and sustainable funding schemes. Our success is also determined by our ability to tackle common challenges such as digitisation and globalisation.
The French politician Jean Monnet, the founding father of the European project, is supposed to have said: 'If I had to do it all over again, I would start with culture.'
Indeed, now, more than ever, culture can - and must - keep alive that vision of Europe. We must invest in culture and in cultural professionals. This is why it is an investment in the kind of Europe we believe in.