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Culture is essential – and should be treated as such

Laurence Farreng MEP at EDP Council

Subsequent to the online event "Coming back stronger : ways forward for culture" with our French MEP Laurence Farreng held last Wednesday, Renew Europe released yesterday a joint declaration along with five other political groups “in support of a strong culture comeback”. The event explored possibilities for an EU-wide approach to support the cultural sectors and industries, with a particular focus on ways to reactivate European cultural events and venues.

Laurence Farreng, who moderated part of the event on behalf of the Renew Europe delegation in the CULT committee, said: "Now that the vaccination process is ongoing, it is necessary to think about the next steps after the reopening of museums, theatres, concert halls, cinemas and arenas."

The joint declaration, which was signed by members of the political groups of Renew, EPP, S&D, the Greens/EFA, ECR and the Left, stressed “the importance of culture and creativity in ensuring our wellbeing as well as its contribution to the EU economy”.

The cultural and creative sector was among the hardest hit by the pandemic, not being deemed “essential”, and is only slowly able to reopen now. Due to lockdowns leading to cancellations of events and the closing of venues, exhibitions and festivals, the cultural and creative sectors and industries lost around a third of their revenues in 2020, which equals a cumulative loss of around 200 billion euros.

Studies having confirmed the low risk of transmission at cultural events (both in-and outdoors), the signing parties called on the European Commission to “urgently publish guidelines to facilitate the safe re-opening of cultural venues and organisation of cultural activities”. MEP Farreng and others welcomed the Council conclusions of 18 May on the recovery, resilience, and sustainability of the cultural and creative sectors, all whilst stressing that re-opening could only be a first step and that a cultural recovery needed to be part and parcel of a sustainable European recovery. For this reason, they reiterated their call to the Commission and Member States to reserve 2% of the post-Covid National Recovery and Resilience Plan’s budget to the cultural sector.

The signing parties also urged the Commission to propose a European framework for working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors and industries to increase protection for the people working in those sectors against future crises.

Whilst recovery is expected to be slow, speakers at the event emphasised the spike in innovation in the cultural sector as a result of the COVID-crisis and the opportunity this presented for a post-COVID future – provided the cultural sector receives the necessary financial support.