More Europe? yes, but not this one.

Four recent quotes:

Angela Merkel:  “We need  more Europe, a budget union, and we need a political union first and  foremost, we must, step by step, cede responsibilities to  Europe.”

David Cameron:  “If you think you can just establish a European Parliament and a  flag and everyone will be loyal to it, that’s nonsense.”

Esko Aho (former Finnish Prime Minister) :  “Europe is top of the world in designing strategies but is slow in acting

Michael Rake (Chair, BT)  “ There has been too much intellectual discussion … We’ve spent too much time focusing on the Lisbon Treaty rather than the Lisbon Agenda. Europe is facing huge competition from the South and the East in a globalized economy. It is very difficult for politicians to deal with this. It takes huge courage to say the truth clearly and to follow-up on it. It will require huge levels of leadership to bring us together now.”

All four are spot on.  The crisis of the eurocrisis is slowly making leaders realise that we now live in a different world to that when the EU was first started in a small way in 1956.  The processes, the mental attitude of the Euro-elites, are out of date.  Forming an ever closer union by small steps so no-one would notice is no longer valid. “Unity in diversity” is valid only if the emphasis is on “unity”. Those who prioritize “diversity” are those who are  now holding back the European dream in todays’ world.   The most recent example being the squabbles over the European Patent Office.  It brings considerable economic benefit to European companies in the global market place. Delayed and stalled because of languages and location squabbles.

If you want to prioritize diversity then you need to accept a much looser, more fragmented Europe.  That’s what Cameron would want; it’s not what the Europhiles have professed they want.  Now is the time , as Merkel says, to move authority to Brussels and away from national decisions.

But there is a catch and Cameron identifies it perfectly. Well two catches.  The EU institutions in Brussels are not fit for this new purpose. They were designed for a different world and a different purpose (even as recently as the Lisbon treaty).   They are not right in structural terms (and certainly not in efficiency terms) and neither in terms of the internal culture.  A stronger centre cannot work with intra-institutional bickering.

The second reason is demonstrated daily in the streets of Spain and Greece and other member states.  The “democratic deficit” long agonised over but rarely tackled in a serious manner (Mark Leonard points out the German problem) becomes a democratic nightmare if powers are transferred a la Merkel to the existing Brussels structure.   It is noticeable how little the weak European Parliament has been involved in the crisis of the eurocrisis.  The “secret” cabal of wise men (Juncker, van Rompuy, Draghi and Barroso)  asked to come up with a vision excludes the Parliament.

The EU has been built-in the crab-like culture of hidden alleyways.  In many ways it has been successful (again Cameron points out the real impact of low-cost air travel and cheaper roaming charges: pragmatic not intellectual).

A new European Union is called for: a strong Parliament for democratic control: a single President presiding, subject to Parliament over a European civil service (a reformed Commission)  who are accountable to the Parliament in far more detail and authority than “co-decision” can ever achieve.

But it is essential to gain public support.  Not through fear as demonstrated in the recent Irish vote. Not through bullying and threats as we are seeing before the Greek vote; not through symbolism as Cameron warns against; but through a bottom up, citizens led new Europe.

That is what the Year of Active Citizenship should be about rather than extolling the virtues of the current Commission. Let us not repeat the mistake of the Convention. It started with the aim of bringing Europe closer to the people (surely the wrong way round but let’s overlook that) and ended up under the Kerr/Amato insiders smug approach of a constitution of supreme legal and bureaucratic sub-clauses.  A ratings agency would have used its lowest junk score.

More Europe?  Yes. But not more of the same Europe.

 

More Europe or More European?

“More Europe”;  “Less Europe”:  calls triggered by the eurozone crisis and the inability of the politicians to solve it for more than a few months or even weeks at a time.   Pro-Europeans seek More Europe; euroseptics seek and look forward to the demise of the EU, or at least its fading away to a trading alliance.

The euro crisis highlights a major weakness of the EU, one known for many years. The Euro-elite quite simply ignore the citizens.  The Monnet method, little by little so no-one notices has been exploded.  Everyone notices now (except the euro-elite of course).

Do we have a European Union of citizens?  We take advantage of its many advantages from cheaper  roaming phone calls, ease of low-cost flights, open borders and a common currency for many, no visas and only slightly longer border queues for the rest.  But the crisis has shown the cultural fault lines.   North/South; hardworkers/skivers; tax payers/tax avoiders.  A stereotype blame game.   Perceptions are far ahead of reality.

Unity in diversity, perhaps the weakest euro-jargon phrase ever thought up, hardly papers over the cracks. Indeed it has become the clarion call for less Europe.

The Euro-elite call for more Europe, for a more cultural Europe.   Mega superstars,  Rem Koolhaas and Luc Tuymans, riding on global success and commercial marketing, call for deeper citizenship based on a shared culture.   Throughout history there have been sharing of cultures in architecture, in classical music, in some literary areas.  The Beatles to Lady Gaga to  Adele transcend anything the Eurovision Song Contest throws up.  The Soul for Europe meets in November in Berlin focussing on “civil society” and cultural values.    The Danish EU presidency brings together more eminent culture players in “Team Europe“, including the obligatory conference in Brussels for probably the same audience as all the events in Brussels attract.  The Institute of Ideas brings Euro-sceptics for a debate whether the EU will be the death of democracy.

But is the European Commission starting to wake up?   Tucked away in a corner, hidden from the headlines, it has asked us for our views on being European citizens. And on those areas we care about when we move between countries.    Moving from one country to another, baffling administrative arrangements,  discriminatory tax arrangements, denial of democratic rights. inconsistent health  and social security arrangements.

The Commission produced a very good report in 2010 on the problems of the “free movement of people”. Their scorecard on progress is a masterpiece of hiding just how few changes have taken place.

They are asking for your opinion.     If you move within the EU.. as a tourist, as a student, as a worker, a retiree. If you are in a partnership with someone from another member country, or want to live in another, or vote or fall ill, now is your chance to have your say.

“No taxation without representation” worked in 1776.  About time it worked in the EU; we  should be able to vote in national elections where we live as well as European Parliament and local.  Tax rules explicitly discriminate against fellow EU citizens.

For me it seems absurd that after 60 years European governments have done so little to facilitate free movement of people: surely the most fundamental cultural aspect of a European Union of citizens.  More Europe means just that: More European.

Make your views known.

The cultural and creative sectors contribution to the EU is fundamentally important

“We would see funds redistributed from the Common Agricultural Policy towards other programmes such as Creative Europe, which offers growth potential”

The UK Parliament’s committee looking at the European Commission’s proposed budget from 2014-20 has given  resounding support to the Creative Europe proposals. It asks the UK government to reconsider its position.  I’ve written about the committee’s previous meetings here (Ministers view); here (the sectors and EC view) and the preliminary verdict here.

The final report gives a clear overview of the Commissions’  total spending plans, far clearer than anything I can find on the Commissions’ own Europa website: openness, transparency and public accountability are not Commission virtues).

” The cultural and creative sectors contribution to the EU is fundamentally important. We heard compelling evidence that the increased budget proposed by the Commission would stimulate job creation and growth in line with the Europe 2020 strategy. In the context of domestic funding cuts, and the organisations obvious capacity for attracting EU funding, we call for the Government to support a proportionately larger budget allocation to this area, which represents only a very small proportion of the total MFF.

We also call on the Government to reconsider its position regarding the proposed financial facility. Businesses in the cultural and creative sectors often experience greater difficulty in attracting investment than their counterparts in other sectors. The Commission’s proposed financial facility could offer an important bridging mechanism between these sectors and private-sector investment.

We also call on the Government to reconsider its position regarding the proposed financial facility. Businesses in the cultural and creative sectors often experience greater difficulty in attracting investment than their counterparts in other sectors. The Commission’s proposed financial facility could offer an important bridging mechanism between these sectors and private-sector investment.

A welcome call.  It is interesting to see that the support for Creative Europe does not match the views of many of its supporters.  No mention of forging a closer European citizenship and no mention of artistic and creative benefit.  Pragmatic and to the point, perhaps a better reflection of the role of EC funding.

The report also supports increased educational spending and improved EC communications to citizens.

Will the UK government make these arguments at the EU Education and Culture meeting on 10-11 May?

Who knows?

 

 

Hollande’s cultural challenge

If Francois Hollande wins the French presidency then a major cultural challenge has been set for him.  With nearly one in five French voters expressing a preference for a racist party, and the (hopefully) outgoing president making statements which are not out of place at a le Pen rally,  France really has to get to grips with its attitude to racism.

Something is clearly wrong.  It will mean changes to current practices, in employment, in all sectors.  Current policies have clearly failed.      A President Hollande will need to mobilise a changed cultural sector to help in the anti-racism programme.  Changed?  Yes.    How open is the cultural sector, from museums, theatres, orchestras, to independent arts organisations and groups to a multi-cultural programme.   Audience extension and development.  An interesting take on the Musee de Quai Branly for example is here.  Personally I loved the architecture but really disliked the approach taken in the exhibits, as did the author.

The report in Germany on the future of museums makes an interesting point.  Ignore the headline grabbing comment about closing half the museums and focus on the comment about the need to engage closer with the tax paying public.

In addition, he argues, cultural institutions should be organised differently and [be given] more detailed targets, not only in regard to visitor numbers, but also guidelines about where visitors should come from and what age groups in particular should be attracted to the museums.

This is not only a domestic issue.  France’s soft power and cultural attraction is weakened with such a growing vote for the extreme right.   And if the right win in the second round?

 

 

More Europe? More Europeans

With austerity and unemployment rising across most of Europe now is certainly the time for more Europe.  Comments by candidate Sarkozy, seeking the racist vote were quite frankly appalling for a President or any politician seeking high office.   (“They must know which side of the Mediterraean they live in”).

I make no concessions to this view.  The closer, and to adopt a Chinese buzz word in its most progressive meaning, harmonious Europe we have the better for everyone.  It is not just a case for eurozone countries to work together or closing down out-of-date tax loopholes between countries. We need to move to a more positive approach to Europeanness at the personal level. For far too long the EU has focused on the corporate and national.  In the next period.. and starting now not waiting for the 2014-20  “Europe 2020” agenda the priority must be to bring Europeans together.

“Unity in Diversity” is being abused to mean “my diversity is paramount” as nationalism and regionalism take precedence. It is no use arguing for More Europe if the target audience, the participants are the already cosmopolitan members of European society.   At the same time I think it is useless to promote some ideal “European Culture”: a favoured viewpoint of an intellectual elite.

As a starting point I recommend this publication from the Council of Europe:  “A Handbook on Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe”.   The European Year of Citizens in 2013 has a fundamental political task in taking head on politicians at local, regional and national level, the commission and civil society.

Creative Europe: “We urge you to reconsider….”

They listened to the Minister (who said no).  They listened to the European Commission and the sector (who said yes).   And they asked the Minister to reconsider.

The UK’s House of Lords Committee scrutinising the Creative Europe proposal from the European Commission came out firmly in support.  Their letter to the Minister says….

” .. we received compelling evidence from the cultural and creative stakeholders…about the economic and social benefits provided by EU funds to UK organisations and to the cultural and creative sectors across the EU more broadly.  We also note that the Commission’s proposed increase constitutes only a fraction (0.002%) of the overall allocation  for the next MultiAnnual Financial Framework for the period 2012-14. In the context of the domestic funding cuts for this sector and taking account of UK organisations obvious capacity for attracting EU funding and notwithstanding the Government’s declared  negotiating stance of achieving a real terms freeze across the next MFF, we would urge the Government to review its approach to this funding proposal”.

 

They were also (politely) critical of the Ministers’ failure to attend meetings with other Culture Ministers.  I woonder what they would think if they read my article of the UK Culture Ministers failure to sign the Decalogue for Culture (leaving it to a Business Minister)

The Minister has ten days to reply.

Creative Europe strikes back

Creative Europe struck back yesterday at the House of Lords committee which is reviewing the European Commission’s proposed new culture programme.  Last week the UK’s minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, said the UK government will oppose the planned 37% budget increase.   Yesterday Ann Branch (European Commission), Yvette Vaughan Jones (Visiting Arts and the UK’s Cultural Contact Point) and Agnieszka Moody (MEDIA Desk UK.) refuted Vaizeys’ objections.

Last week I said that the supporters of the Creative Europe programme need to offer hard facts rather than appeals to vague concepts of “Europeanness” if they are to convince politicians to support the increase in the EC’s culture budget. That is precisely the approach the three “witnesses” took yesterday.

To every question they replied with hard facts and practical explanations of the impact the EC Culture programme has.  Benefits to UK?.. of course; benefits to arts and creative professionals?..here’s an example, benefits to wider society?.. lets look a this example,  supporting jobs and growth?.. look at the numbers and the multipliers, is there European added value?.. see through these examples, Will the increase benefit the UK arts sector and society?  here’s another example.  On the critical issue of the proposed loan guarantee facility the Ann Branch gave compelling evidence of support from the European Investment Bank.

Watch the session here on Parliament TV.

Vaizey was clearly embarrassed last week when he said there had only been 6 responses to the UK consultation exercise run by his ministry.   He extended the deadline to 26 March.  The CCP, and this blog, alerted the arts sector.  There are no nearly 50 responses.  There are still a few days to get more responses.  Send them to DCMS.

The Committee were clearly impressed when the sheer scale of consultation across Europe was listed by the three witnesses.

And now?   My guess is that the Committee will support the increase in the programme, re-assure the Minister that EU funding is not replacing reduced UK arts funding and will benefit the UK sectors.   The big question is less over the Creative Europe budget itself.   I suspect that over the next 12 months as heads of government start to become involved over the EC budget as a whole .. and I guess that the EC will not get away with any real increases but have a static budget (except for inflation) then the inter-programme battles will resume within the Commission.  The issue then is whether the proposed culture programme benefits Europe’s (not the sector) jobs and growth strategy more than other programmes run by the EU. We all have our favourite programme to hate.  Naturally the Common Agricultural Programme tops my listing!

“Creative Europe”: yes but no more money says UK Minister

The UK will oppose the proposed 37% increase in the EU’s culture budget.  The European Commission has put forward a new programme for 2014-2020 under the banner “Creative Europe” to cover culture, media and a “cross sectoral financing facility”.  Ed Vaizey, the UK’s Minister for Culture, Communication and the Creative Industries told a Parliamentary Committee on 15 March that the UK does not support any increase in the EC’s budget, in these days of austerity. Consequently it opposes the increase in the culture budget.  (The Minister’s uncorrected comments to the Committee are here).

Vaizey gave strong support to the objectives of the culture programme and to the support to the media and film industries.  In particular he supported the translation programme saying the publishing industry was often overlooked.

Vaizey said: “On one level it is unusual for me as a Culture Minister to oppose a proposed substantial increase in a budget designed to support the cultural and creative industries, but I do oppose it because I very much sign up to the Government’s position that in times of great economic austerity, when the European Union should be focused on growth, looking hard at its budget and the money it spends and reducing it if possible, it would be terribly wrong for me, given my own particular passion, to say, “That’s all very well but we’ll take the increase in the culture programme“.

 

He singled out the proposed financial facility  for strong opposition .  The Commission have proposed this loan guarantee facility as small  businesses in the creative industries have difficulty attracting commercial loans from the financial sector in many countries.  Vaizey disputed this. His objections rested on the risk that starting such a loan guarantee system ran the risk of other sectors seeking similar preferential treatment, and that the better way  forward was to educate the investors.  His own ministry has recently launched a support scheme based around tax relief.

Two surprises came from the hearing.  Vaizey does not know or meet his ministerial counterparts across the EU. He did recall a short meeting with the French Culture Minister at the Venice Architectural Biennale.    Secondly his Ministry  has only received 6 responses to its consultation on Creative Europe.  This clearly concerned the Minister.  So much so that the Cultural Contact Point wrote out that evening saying the deadline for comments has been extended to 26 March.

The UK’s view is not surprising. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he will not let the EC claim an exception to the general cuts in government spending that we are seeing across the EU.  The EC’s culture budget increase is a casualty of this policy.   The messages for the “We are More”  campaigners are clear:

* the need to argue why culture is more effective than other areas of EC spend (presumably the Common Agriculture Policy as the largest element of the EU’s budget)

* why the local guarantee facility will help small and medium companies in the creative and cultural sector.

* and, in the UK, to get your views to DCMS and Vaizey before 26 March.

General pleas to a conceptual idea of a “Europeanness” will fall I suspect fall on deaf ears (the point of another article soon).  As governments cut their own budgets only hard evidence will sway them now.

Stand up for Culture in the EU

” With Europe currently facing serious social and economic difficulties, it is up to the key players in our cultural life and the political decision makers to reaffirm that culture lies at the heart of Europe’s construction and must not be sacrificed”

A ringing endorsement of the role of culture indeed.  Surely the preamble to a manifesto from the arts world?  Or the latest declaration from the We are More campaign which is lobbying hard for 100,000 signatures on its petition for a larger culture budget in the EU.

The fine sounding words, the call to action, comes from culture and arts ministers.  Led by Frederic Mitterand, French Culture Minister, twenty arts ministers (plus a Business Minister from the UK doing things differently as usual) and the European Commissioner for Culture, (Mrs Androulla Vassiliou) have put their names to a tenpoint manifesto ” A Decalogue for Europe of Culture”.

Mitterand announced the idea of a statement just before the Deauville G8 summit in May 2011 which explains, perhaps, why he leads instead of the EC or the EU Presidency.  The current EU presidency is held by the Danes and they have not signed (along with Slovakia, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden).

The declaration was published as two adverts (English and French) in the International Herald Tribune.  A very strange choice. I haven’t seen it yet in any other newspaper.   The Decalogue is at the end of this post (and a Scibed copy is here )   A French version is here on M Mitterand’s website.

So what can we see in the Decalogue?  Several statements from the University of the Bleeding Obvious: “Europe of culture embodies the values of democracy in all the nations of the EU”: although perhaps less so in Hungary at the moment. “Promotes access for all” ,  ” lobbies for the reinforcement of school curricula”. Fine words.

The ten clauses get longer and longer as they move beyond high sounding ideals and come down to earth with practical issues. Some of these might cause problems for ministers so I detect the hand of advisers and lawyers!

Tucked away in the declaration are several less appealing views.  “All appropriate measures against the threats of piracy” rings alarm bells as the  secret ACTA process gathers pace but hopefully the European Parliament will put a stop to this.

A leaf is taken from the Chinese vocabulary when talking about promoting innovations and the need to ” guarantee their harmonious development protected from any commercial monopoly”.  As in China “harmony “seems to be used as a code for “don’t rock our boat”. Given the recent French court decision against Google Maps this does not look a promising statement.  Its also redolent of the narrow views in the second half of the declaration that the artistic opportunities of digital revolution take second place to matters of financial and legal challenges.  Very defensive.

The final clause seems out of place: simply confirming the EC’s decision to merge the Culture and Media budgets. This focus on an adminstrative step fails to remind the EC to place culture as a mainstream part of all its activities.  Culture is noticeably lacking in virtually every other programme of the proposed budget from 2014.

Of course many of the ministers making the declaration are presiding over reducing culture budgets.   They do need our support for making such an endorsement of the role of culture in today’s European Union.

The test of whether this is indeed an action document or simply a piece of PR (visibility without responsibility) will come when they ensure that their countries sign up to the increased budget for culture in the EU’s spending plans for 2014 onwards.  After this declaration they cannot go back now.   To remind them of their commitment sign the “We are more” petition now.

Here is the Decalogue for Europe of Culture:

With Europe currently facing serious social and economic difficulties, it is up to the key players in our cultural life and the political decision makers to reaffirm that culture lies at the heart of Europe’s construction and must not be sacrificed. The European Commission’s Education and Culture DG and 22 EU Ministers have approved a joint declaration: the Decalogue for Europe of Culture.   (signed F Mitterand, French Minister of Culture).

1.   Europe of culture embodies the values of democracy in all the nations of the EU.

2.  Europe of culture contributes to the affirmation of the European identity in all its diversity and to the flourishing of the arts and languages from which its richness is derived.

3.  Europe of culture ensures absolute freedom of creation across all its elements and events.

4.  Europe of culture promotes access for all, without distinction in terms of gender, age, origin, health or social status, to intellectual works, expressions of art, and the tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

5.  Europe of culture protects the legitimate right of creators and authors to fair remuneration and guarantees this by means of all appropriate meaures against the threats of piracy, fraud, theft and abusive use to which they might be exposed.

6.  Europe of culture encourages the circulation and exhibition of works both within the EU and beyond its borders, and ensures the legal and financial compliance of the actions of the various cultural contributors who organise and promote this.

7. Europe of culture establishes good rules of economic governance for the art and cultural industries market, within a spirit of complete transparency. It takes part in the development of innovations which interest the public authorities and private initiatives, in order to guarantee their harmonious development protected from any commercial monopoly.

8.  Europe of culture addresses the technological, financial and legal challenges brought about by the digital revolution fro the gathering and transmission of works and for the flourishing of new forms of artistic expression.

9. Europe of culture lobbies for the reinforcement of school curricula, teaching methods and procedures for artistic education and the training of creative artists.

10.  By emphasising that creation, art and beauty constitute a fundamental investment in the future which creates not only individual but also collective well-being in the form of employment, Europe of culture commits the European Union to consolidation of the budgets for culture and media programmes in order to meet the needs and aspirations of Europeans.

 

Signed by the Culture  Ministers of Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.  And the French-speaking community of Belgium, the UK Business Ministry and the EC’s Commissioner for Culture, Media, Education , Youth and Sport.

2012: A European clash of civilisations?

It’s the time of year for forecasting.  What do you expect. or hope, will happen in 2012?  The European Council for Foreign Relations puts forward  Ten Trends for 2012.    Most are reasonably predictable and safe political points (the standard positioning of the ECFR) but it leads with a very challenging point for those interested in culture in Europe: “the European Clash of Civilisations”.

Although the real cause of the crisis is the structural flaw of designing a single currency without a common treasury, Northern Europeans have tended to explain the euro’s problems as a clash between a fiscally-responsible north and an irresponsible south. Southern countries, on the other hand, feel betrayed by what they see as the limited and conditional solidarity of the north – which they see as part of the problem. They feel they have contributed to Germany’s success during the last decade by buying German exports such as cars. France, meanwhile, is caught in the middle – the equivalent of what Huntington called a ‘torn country’ (like Turkey in the conflict between the West and Islam). It wants to be part of the north – which is where power is shifting – but finds itself in danger of becoming part of the south.
The facts do not always support this cultural reading of the crisis – for example it was the rule-worshipping Germans that broke the Stability and Growth Pact, while the Spanish abided by its provisions – however, like Huntington’s original thesis, it risks becoming self-fulfilling, leading to solutions which may not make sense in economic terms – such as simultaneous austerity by all, which Keynesians argue leads to stagnation.

In the last decade there are have more conferences, papers and seminars on “what is European identity; what is European culture.”.   How effective have they been?  Did any of them come to terms with the deep culture of European citizens?  Now is the time for some serious re-thinking and actions with the whole European project under threat.

So an invitation to those interested and active in European culture: what do you see in 2012?  Has the cultural sector any role in averting a cultural divide in Europe?  Does it remain on the sidelines and content within its own audience and production?    Are there any ideas for the Year of European Citizens. Or will 2013 be too late?