Cultural policy United Kingdom

European Union proposes world's largest ever cultural funding programme

The €1.8bn allocated for culture comes at a time of worsening economic crisis across the Eurozone

The European Union is launching the €1.8bn “Creative Europe” project

As the economic crisis deepens across Europe, the European Commission plans to launch the world's largest ever cultural funding programme, with €1.8bn allocated for visual and performing arts, film, music, literature and architecture. The commission's Creative Europe project plans to release the money between 2014 and 2020. If the scheme is approved late 2012, an estimated 300,000 artists are due to receive funding.

The proposal has received a mixed response from key cultural commentators, with some saying that banking on culture and the arts to help prop up EU member states and stimulate the economy is unlikely to work.

Dexter Dalwood, the UK artist nominated for the Turner Prize in 2010, is sceptical. “If the goal is to create social cohesion isn't it going to favour obvious visible targets like classical music, the performing arts and public art?” he says. “On paper this looks fine. [But] in reality who gets the money ? Is there a hefty application process where the outcome of the work has to be clearly stated? Is there any chance it could trickle down to the most needy creative people?” Dalwood suggests the most effective form of subsidy for artists would be to make affordable studios.

Others welcome the plans, although some suggest bureaucracy may pose problems. “Overall I welcome [the initiative]: who wouldn't think that more funding for the sector in these dark times is welcome? The problem will be the usual one, which is that governments and big bureaucracies like the EU find it very difficult to engage with small- and medium- sized enterprises, let alone individuals; and that the form-filling and accountability normally demanded by the EU will be very costly to administer and hugely frustrating for applicants,” says John Holden, visiting professor at City University in London.

The commission says that, along with planned funding boosts from 2014 for the film industry (€910m over seven years) and culture programmes such as European Capitals of Culture (€490m), with Guimarães in Portugal and Maribor in Slovenia designated capitals of culture for 2012, spending on culture would rise by 35%, accounting for inflation. A new financial guarantee facility will also enable small-scale cultural organisations to access up to €1bn in bank loans. “'Creative Europe' enables the [cultural and creative] sectors to reach their potential so that they can contribute to the Europe 2020 goals for sustainable growth, jobs and social cohesion,” says the “Creative Europe” policy document.

Indeed, Jordi Balta, the project co-ordinator at Inter Arts, a Barcelona-based non-governmental organisation, noted that the “Creative Europe” scheme is very much in line with recent policies pursued by the European Commission that emphasise the economic importance of the cultural sector. “It is also important for cultural policy to be integrated into other EU policy programmes such as regional development funding,” he says.

The European Commission nonetheless aims to radically overhaul how the cultural sector is funded. “Investment readiness in the sector is extremely low, since cultural and creative entrepreneurs often lack the business skills to market their projects to financial institutions,” according to a press statement. The commission suggests turning to “banking expertise”, with an emphasis on leveraging private investment and shifting the European mentality from grants to loans.

Dalwood also raised concerns about about whether UK artists would benefit from the planned programme in light of prime minister David Cameron's decision to veto a new EU treaty earlier this month [December]. “If it provides opportunities for residencies, travel and exhibition funding then I think it could be great, but now that Cameron is leading his march away from Europe can UK-based fine artists hope to be included in the funding?”

A culture spokesman for the European Commission insisted that these developments would have no bearing on eligibility for UK artists. “The UK veto at the summit will have no consequences whatsoever for the UK's ability to obtain future funding under the “Creative Europe” programme.The UK will join the the other 26 member states, and the European Parliament, in negotiating and adopting the programme in the coming months,” he says. Meanwhile, a campaign supporting a strong cultural component in the next EU budget called “We Are More” has been launched, garnering over 22,000 signatures so far online.

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9 Jan 12
20:10 CET


I agree with Carole Pigott, studio's for artist and the bulk of the funds going where there is little or no resources.

9 Jan 12
17:45 CET


The terms of reference for All applicants will require both integrity and balanced clarity at draft stage.

31 Dec 11
18:20 CET


LOL! Nearly every country in the EU is in big financial trouble and they want to increase spending on a sector of the economy that is nearly always unprofitable!!! What about these cultural entities creating their own revenue streams? London had 4 gov. funded prouductions of the Nutcracker this season - is that dumb or what? Where will the money come from for this? from the overtaxed Europeans and possibly from the USA if the Commie-in-chief BHO remains in charge. Cultural projects are great, don't get me wrong. But why should the taxpayers be dunned for it. This is the usual insanity of the EU and their unelected bureaucrats. Wake up - there is no "Euro-identity" and natonalism is not a bad thing, it is what bad people do with an idea (i.e. nationalism) that is the problem. Competition actually breds success and there is no competition when the heavy had of the state controls things. This is the dumbest idea the EU has come up with in quite a while.

29 Dec 11
21:51 CET


At a time when funding for the arts if one area most targeted in the US, I applaud this initiative.

27 Dec 11
17:57 CET


"Dalwood suggests the most effective form of subsidy for artists would be to make affordable studios." Right On! It would go directly to help the people who are actually doing the creating instead of it being eaten up by administration costs as most art funding is. The lack of affordable studio space in areas that collectors would dare to drive to in order to view art - has been and is the most consistent problem facing practicing artists.

24 Dec 11
14:55 CET


I would like further information on application of these funds.

21 Dec 11
15:6 CET


While the Eurozone is in shambles and on the brink of collapse, the wisest investment the European Commission can make is in the arts, promoting a more cohesive sense of Euro-identity and breaking down the ferocious sense of nationalism that mitigates vs. success for the EU as a progressive unified body rather than a scattered relic of 'old Europe.'

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