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Cultural Deal for Europe

13 Nov 2020

There is no recovery or future for Europe without culture. Europe needs a new Cultural Deal, a transversal, overarching framework that demonstrates the EU’s political commitment to place culture at the heart of the European project.

The Cultural Deal was launched in November 2020 when COVID-19 was devastating Europe’s cultural sectors. We called on the European Union to fully integrate culture and cultural heritage into its actions and policies, making it an overarching strategy in analogy to the Green Deal. We call for including culture in the EU’s recovery and funding programmes, its sustainable development strategies, its relations with the rest of the world, and more.

On this page you will find an overview of the Cultural Deal for Europe campaign, including videos of the Annual Policy Conversations, open letters and opinion pieces.

The Cultural Deal for Europe is open to public endorsement, please support the campaign here.

A visual summary of the 2021 Annual Policy Conversation by Menah.

Culture is what brings us together. It is at the basis of the European project and determines the future of our societies. The gravity of the Covid-19 crisis proved again that culture is not a luxury, but a necessity to build cohesive, equal, sustainable and free societies. A Cultural Deal for Europe is a call from a wider European cultural community to acknowledge the pivotal role of culture in shaping the future of our lives.

The European Cultural Foundation, Culture Action Europe and Europa Nostra (also in its capacity as coordinator of the European Cultural Alliance) jointly proposed the Cultural Deal for Europe framework. This overarching strategy aims at placing culture at the center of the European project and mainstreaming it across all policy fields: from the green transition to Europe’s geopolitical ambition and from the digital shift to a value-driven Union. It focuses on both facilitating the contribution of culture to Europe’s sustainable development and providing the sector with the credibility and resources for realising its full potential. By bundling together both short and long term objectives, Cultural Deal for Europe is envisioned as a roadmap towards a more balanced, more comprehensive, and more inclusive European development model.

Open letter ahead of the European Parliament elections

European Parliament in Brussels

In October 2023 the three initiating organisations published an open letter ahead of the June 2024 European Parliament elections, calling for culture to be prominently featured in the 2024 electoral campaigns: in political groups’ programmes and in public conversations with Europeans about the future of our continent.

The letter – which you can download and share with your MEP’s or candidates in the 2024 European Parliament elections – asks:

We have created a union of states and institutions. We still need to craft a union of values and people. It is culture that brings us together as Europeans, igniting the hearts and fuelling the minds of citizens. Without culture, the very future of Europe is under threat.

Can we count on YOU to help us place culture at the heart of Europe?

European Cultural Deal for Ukraine

Europe needs Ukraine as Ukraine needs Europe. The recovery and future of Ukraine in the EU cannot be envisaged without culture playing its full role. This needs the determination and commitment of Ukraine to embed culture in its recovery, reconstruction and modernisation strategy.

We urgently call on the EU to include Ukraine’s cultural, cultural heritage and creative sectors in EU relief packages for Ukraine and the Ukraine Facility (2024-2027).

Everything Everywhere All at Once: Culture for the Future

ECF’s Head of Public Policy, Isabelle Schwarz, contributed an article to the October 2023 edition of Parliament Magazine:

“As we head to the next set of European Parliament elections, the world’s second largest democratic exercise, we must ask ourselves: What kind of Europe do I want? What difference can I make? What can be done together, regardless of personal and political ambitions to build a better, less frightening, and more sustainable future?”

“Culture is not the answer for solving everything, everywhere, all at once. But none of Europe’s big issues can be critically addressed without culture.”

Culture is the new energy for Europe - Annual Policy Conversation 2023

On February 28 2023, members of the European Parliament representing various political groups publicly discussed our eight proposals to put culture centre stage in EU’s policies at the Annual Policy Conversation.

The event was moderated by Katy Lee (journalist, the Europeans podcast) and brought the following MEPs on stage: Alexis Georgoulis (The Left), Marcos Ros Sempere (S&D), Sabine Verheyen (EPP), also in her function as Chair of the CULT Committee.

The keynote was delivered by Margaritis SchinasVice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Promotion of the European Way of Life.

Stand up poet Amber Setta concluded the afternoon.

Cultural Deal for Europe - full 2023 statement

In 2023 we published a booklet in which we look back at the achievements after two years since the launch of the campaign. It shows many issues we campaign for found a place in the new EU Council Work Plan for Culture 2023 -2026.

But above all we take stock of what still needs to be done.

'Make culture central in the EU’s green and sustainable future' - Annual Policy Conversation 2022

We hosted the Cultural Deal for Europe – Annual Policy Conversation 2022 on February 1, in partnership with the Rebuilding Europe with Culture Campaign and Friends of Europe,

This event focused on the contribution of culture and cultural heritage to Europe’s recovery, and to its green, more sustainable and inclusive future through the European Green Deal, the Conference on the Future of Europe and the New European Bauhaus, of which the three hosting organisations are official partners. The aim of this policy conversation was to inspire and engage the wider European community of artists, cultural workers, creative industries and heritage stakeholders in building a future that is more resilient and sustainable for Europe and its citizens.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, sent a video message, thanking all artists and creators who brought light into the dark days of the pandemic through their books, films, music, or video games. “You artists were hit first and longest, but you gave us so much. Now Europe stands ready to help you.”

The pandemic has severely affected the cultural ecosystem with losses up to 90 percent compared with its previous, pre-pandemic turnover. For Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Culture, imminent action is needed. “Current situation left artists, creators and cultural professionals unprotected and more fragile than ever before”.

You can watch recaps of the event in the video playlist below.



To make the silos dance - December 2021

To make the silos dance is a paper written by Gijs de Vries, commissioned by ECF as contribution to the Cultural Deal for Europe. Gijs de Vries is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where his areas of research include international cultural relations. In 2018-2020 he was an external expert in the German Foreign Ministry’s Reflection Group on Germany’s future strategy for international cultural cooperation (AKBP) and in the European Union’s Voices of Culture initiative on culture and the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the author writes in his introduction: “There are three main reasons why culture matters to Europe and why it should figure more prominently in EU policy. Culture matters intrinsically; it is central to a life worth living. Culture also matters as a central component of our societies and economies. Finally, culture matters existentially, as a principal but vulnerable dimension of our common identity as Europeans.”

“The cultural and creative sectors have long argued that the EU needs to adopt a horizontal, holistic view of culture”, de Vries writes. “My paper is intended to offer concrete suggestions about how this mainstreaming can be achieved in practice.”

The paper reflects his personal views. De Vries: “It is definitely not the final word on the subject, on the contrary. I intend it to be an open invitation to a wider conversation, both among policy-makers and among cultural experts. Together we are stronger; with luck and some perseverance I am optimistic that we will succeed in making Europe’s policy silos dance!”

'The Netherlands starts becoming a cultural outsider in Europe' - October 2021

In an opinion piece in Dutch daily Trouw European Cultural Foundation director André Wilkens claims there can be no recovery after the pandemic without respect for culture and the role of the artist. That 2% of the European Recovery Fund should be allocated to culture – as intended by the European Parliament – could be the start of a creative healing process, at the heart of Europe’s transformation. The Netherlands must not be left out.

Paradiso debate 2021 - August 2021

In the run up to the Dutch Paradisodebat on the post-pandemic future of the Dutch cultural and creative sectors various Dutch prominent opinion leaders spoke out in favour of the Cultural Deal campaign, urging the Dutch government to dedicate at least two percent of the RFF funds to culture. The open letter is an initiative by the Dutch Europa-platform and is open for endorsement. With financial aid from the national rescue packages stopping per October, the sector needs your support now.

photo by Jack Aarts

A central place for culture in the EU’s post-pandemic future - Annual Policy Conversation 2020

A caption of the Annual Policy Conversation 2020 by artist Menah.

With opening remarks by European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and the European Parliament CULT Chair Sabine Verheyen, the Annual Policy Conversation took place online on 18 November 2020. It was organised by the three Cultural Deal for Europe campaign initiators:  Culture Action Europe (CAE), European Cultural Foundation, and Europa Nostra, founder and coordinator of the European Heritage Alliance.

The online debate reflected on critical questions about the role of culture for Europe’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and, more widely, for the future of Europe, involving the European Commissioner in charge of Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel, the European Parliament CULT Committee Chair Sabine Verheyen, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune, as well as other MEPs, representatives of Member States and of other European institutions, as well as a broad range of stakeholders and civil society actors. A video contribution by the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli opened the meeting, and the conclusions were made by the President of the Committee of the Regions Apostolos Tzitzikostas.  The debate was moderated by Dharmendra Kanani (Friends of Europe). Visual storytelling was provided by the artist Menah (Marleen Wellen).

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