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.

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?

Should citizens take the lead in the Year of Citizens?

The European Commission has proposed 2013 to be the “European Year of Citizens”.    Its aims, sorry, challenges, are to:

  • raise citizens’ awareness of their right to reside freely within the European Union and of how they can benefit from EU rights and policies;
  • stimulate citizens’ active participation in EU policy-making;
  • build debate about the impact and potential of the right to free movement, especially on strengthening cohesion and people’s mutual understanding of one another.

Now most of these “Years” seek raise awareness of  an issue.  The concept is favoured by UNESCO, Council of Europe, various UN agencies as well as the EU.   One major weakness is that very few of the promoters put any money behind them; they expect others to spend their own money to deliver the results.   I haven’t seen any serious long-term evaluation of the years but they seem to be liked by officials and politicians.

The concept of European citizenship is important and in my view a Good Thing. Indeed if we are to survive the eurocrisis over the next few years then a greater shared sense of community amongst voters is essential. We can no longer continue to live in a Europe with its own variation of the Clash of Civilisations.

So how can we be better European citizens and what can the powers that be do?  Here are five ideas:

*  EU citizens living in other EU countries should be allowed to vote in the national elections as well as local and regional. No taxations without representation worked in a country two hundred or so years ago.  Voting is not the end of the world but it indicates a degree of equality and of belonging.

*  If you have a bank account in one EU country then you should be able to able an account in another automatically. No more Catch-22s when moving within the EU.

*  Ministries of Foreign Affairs should be renamed European and Foreign Ministries (some, Austria have done this). Again to demonstrate that being European is not being foreign.

*  The next elections for the European Parliament should be contested in the name of the political groupings in the Parliament with a single EU wide manifesto  and not by domestic political parties.  Citizens should vote for the various presidents directly, of Council and Commission.

* No discrimination in various tax and social security systems between EU citizens and domestic citizens.

There will be more.. please add them

European Crisis, Opportunity or Business as usual?

The political leaders are on their way home.  Overnight discussions, morning photographs and lunchtime press conferences: the ritual of governance in the European Union. A final declaration issued. It falls into the normal trap of countless meetings: a list of things to do, mostly by other people. And of course with one participant refusing to play.

What are the consequences of the summit to save the Euro, or indeed to save Europe (or at least the European Union bit of Europe)?  I see these avenues:

An outpouring of prejudice and stereotypes.  The weekend media (formal and online) will have a field day of jokes about Britain, Europe, Merkel, Sarkozy.  Fog in Channel, Europe cut off;  Auf Wiedersehn England, don’t mention the war, de Gaulle was right.   The clichés will drown you.

But is it enough?  The economists and other soothsayers will look into the tea-leaves of the deal.  Some will say of course, the eternal optimists.  Others will say nothing new, not enough, we are all doomed.  A tweet overnight summed it up:  “It’s like the captain of the Titanic ordering more lifeboats for the return voyage”.  With friends like that…   Is there a deal behind the scenes with the ECB, Lagarde ,Merkel and Sarkozy to fix the markets in the next few weeks?  Watch the arcane mysteries of TARGET2, of CDS, of 2 month, 6 month, 1 year, 5 year, 10 year bonds.  Why did Soros buy EUR2billion of debt last week?

Politicians when they get home will realise just what a headache they have given themselves.  Finance Ministers will struggle to understand their advisers on the details; National bankers will add to their knowledge and confusion. Many heads of government will see two dark shadows: the date of the next election and how to keep their coalition partners in line.  Let alone getting a vote through Parliament.  Who will be Slovakia this time around?   Or for a real fly in the soup: how many times will the Irish have to vote in referenda to come up with the right decision.  All by March of course.

In Brussels the Eurocrats will be hard at work on the detail: where the devil is.  The masters will be at work on by the middle of next week the staff working papers will have everything buttoned down including resolving the intra-DG rivalries.  This time there are two elephants in the room.  The European Parliament.. remember them?  An intergovernmental deal will cut them out in these post Lisbon days expect an eruption.  And somewhere in the deep grass there is a small voice crying out “what about the democratic deficit?”.    Lurking with the EP will be the UK.   You wondered when I’ll get round to Cameron.  His grounds for “veto” were weak.   He clearly decided that keeping happy his own Little Englanders in the Conservative Party (and his party funders) was far more important than the future of the UK or of Europe.  Of course it is useful for Cameron to blame the Eurozone for the failings of the Tory governments economic policies (a line seriously weakened with news that UK exports to the EU broke records in the last few months).  But if the EZ17, with perhaps a few future members, want a new work of working on their currency then so be it.  The real danger is that the UK blocks the use of the European institutions.  That is a deep crisis.

And you and I?  We will continue to suffer austerity, unless in a few successful areas of the EU.  Soon the politicians may start to realise that debt control is not the solution to our problems.  It is as Merkel keeps saying how resources are used.  If the UK has a debt reduction programme surely time to end the nuclear missile waste of money; why is Greece still buying ex French warships to protect itself against a candidate country? Why are semi nationalised banks still operating as if it was cowboy country.. in Germany as well as in UK and Spain.  The indignados, the Occupy and others see that business as usual is not an option.

A fiscal union is a step forward.  Political union, with European democratic control, is the way forward . It will be a leap forward when it drops the fixation with  neo-liberal growth and austerity.