Vote for culture - a catalyst for a better Europe

(c) European Parliament 2019

In the coming days, through the elections, EU citizens will decide the fate of the new European Parliament. Many are pondering whom they should vote for, but culture is definitively not the decisive factor shaping public opinion.

Debates, interviews and manifestos do not dedicate much time to cultural matters ahead of the elections. In general, there is a lack of a concrete cultural proposal to fight, for example, the nationalist and Eurosceptic wave, which worries many cultural actors that cherish cultural diversity and inclusion. Filmmakers themselves published a manifesto on the occasion of the ongoing Cannes Film Festival, urging voters to stand up for “a free and democratic Europe,” a “Union [that] is also one of culture” (read the full manifesto).

European institutions are aware of the fundamental role played by culture and diversity and actively support the cultural sector. According to the Council, “audiovisual content can overcome geographic and linguistic borders, promoting cultural diversity and shared European values, thus fostering a sense of belonging to a common cultural space.”

Unfortunately, this central position does not reach citizens as it should before the elections. The political manifestos mirror the most urgent challenges – climate crisis, unemployment, migration, security, gender equality – but do not address culture as a useful tool to tackle them.

What treatment is given to culture in European parties’ manifestos and campaigns?

The Greens and Renaissance approach culture concretely. The Greens consider culture as a human right and, as such, it should be accessible to everyone. This is possible through increasing the budget, EU funded initiatives and by dedicating more forces to “vibrant arts and culture, important both in their own right and as sources of well-being, jobs and income” without forgetting to mention their unifying power.

Renaissance, foreseen to form a coalition together with ALDE, introduces some innovative and concrete ideas such as scholarships for young artists to promote “young contemporary creation, photography, visual arts, etc.”, “cultural residences” and “cultural paths” across European countries to develop tourism and local events.

S&D briefly hints at a cultural action by proposing European Culture Cheques “to support young people’s access to culture” and ALDE underlines how “few physical borders […] have brought Europe tremendous economic social and cultural growth.” The preservation of our cultural richness, diversity and tradition, which makes us stronger, is also reiterated by the EPP.

Can culture be a cross-over tool to address other policy issues?

Culture can be a real source of growth if used as a way to work on other matters and find new solutions; in other words, as a cross-over tool.

The EU Ministers of Culture agreed that the “key role played by cross-overs” is fundamental as “culture can effectively contribute to the EU’s efforts to implement the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals.” There is, in fact, a real “need for more intensive, systemic and wide-ranging collaboration between the cultural and creative sectors and other sectors of activity, in view of the innovative potential of culture, creativity and arts for the economy, society and general well-being.”

The European Parliament is also aware of the added value carried by the cultural sector and it recently organised a high-level conference on “Building a stronger Europe through creativity and culture.

Culture is thus a catalyst, not only for European democracy, but also for industry and the well-being of society. But is this approach communicated to voters before the elections?

Where is culture on voters’ priorities list?

A research conducted by FTI Consulting in France, Spain and Germany, revealed that in the list of top priorities citizens would prefer their government and the EU to tackle in the next 12 months, “culture” is neither considered among the options, nor is it included in the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. Maybe a different picture would appear if voters were asked about the importance of a Europe that supports its creators in all fields such as film, arts and music.

Unfortunately, we are far from considering culture as an election priority. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind its centrality and the benefits coming from its interdisciplinary application. The cultural sector can play a fundamental role in shaping our future and enriching – in both abstract and concrete ways – our continent. Despite this evidence, clear propositions and awareness are still slipping behind.

While voting this weekend, think about how tomorrow’s EU decision-makers can put culture in the foreground together with other tools that are able to tackle the challenges our continent is facing.

And, in the near future, try to see how much culture affects your everyday life, your decisions, your own story; it is incredible to acknowledge the benefits culture can bring to society, starting with every single individual.

@MelissaColussi, Intern at the SAA

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