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?’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.