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Quote of the Week
“A festival is a unique occasion for meeting different people and different cultures. Together with artists who are real masters of communication through art, a festival is a strong builder of bridges between different cultures - and even between civilizations."
Ján Figel’, former European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Youth
Published by European Festivals AssociationEFA Secretary General discussed role of culture with European Young Leaders
Gent, Friday, 09-03-2012
Key messages from the first “40 under 40: European Young Leaders” seminar (8-9 December) in Paris are: think European but work trans-nationally, re-engage with European citizens yet look beyond Europe’s borders. They are contained in a report that coincides with the March 1-2 European Council. Kathrin Deventer, Secretary General of the European Festivals Association, spoke at the seminar about the role of culture in Europe
The young leaders identified six key priority areas; the need to invest into culture being one: Broadening horizons means re-affirming the role of culture as a fundamental lever and a window onto values that can be shared in Europe and in the wider world. Like education, culture is not a cost but an investment.
The discussion, held at the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, centred on the nature of European culture, on its role in fostering an outlook beyond Europe, on government support for the arts, and on the value of culture to society.
Kathrin Deventer, Secretary General of the European Festivals Association, told the Young Leaders, “we have to make politicians understand that they have to value and recognise the potential of arts and culture much more.” They should use them strategically, she said, not only on the cultural policy level but also on policies such as external affairs, social affairs, citizenship, and inclusion.
This view was echoed by Marietje Schaake MEP, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education. “While we talk so much about the financial and economic crisis, we're overlooking what I've called the other European crisis – which is that of Europe's position in the world, and of its influence,” she said. Referring to political changes in North Africa, the Middle East and the part of Eastern Europe that is still outside the European Union, she warned against the EU “being so inwardly focused.”
“There is a lack of realisation,” she clarified, “that the spaces left open to engage with people, the spaces left open to build new relationships and new partnerships, will not be waiting for us to come back to. They will be taken by others – China and other Middle Eastern players – even though these neighbourhoods are important to us too.” Schaake suggested that better trade access to Europe might open more opportunities.
Krzysztof Candrowicz, Founder and Director of the Lodz Art Centre and the Lodz Foundation of Visual Education, noted that “China moves quickly” when it wants to support the arts. In Europe, he considers the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to have good cultural strategies, yet lamented that the new government in Portugal eliminated its Ministry of Culture this year. Culture, he said, shouldn't be considered a cost for a country, but an investment.
Yet though Candrowicz believes in increased budgets for the arts, he also advocates greater self-sufficiency. He said he found the European funding bureaucracy so complicated that he gave up and turned to seeking private money instead. He also proposed that companies be required to put 1% of their budget aside for culture.
Schaake explained that while there are plenty of European programmes, she had found many instances of people unknowingly working on similar cultural projects that were all supported by European funding. There will be no increases in European funding or programmes, she said, “so we have to be more effective with the funds that are available.”
Yet while there was general agreement that culture and the arts need public funding, participants were also adamant that politicians should have no role in setting the agenda.
Sofi Oksanen then pointed to art’s accessibility, as well as to its communicative potential, observing that “art is the cheapest way to know what's happening outside Europe, what's happening in other cultures.”
This led Cédric Villani, Director of the Henri Poincare Institute in Paris, Professor of Mathematics and 2010 winner of the Fields Medal, to suggest the establishment of a similar “scientific culture”, which might encourage more people to take an interest in science, and to discover cultural differences through pursuing it.
Bringing the discussion to the subject of cinema, Martin Ott observed that American cinematic culture tends to dominate in Europe. Schaake explained this by evoking the fragmented copyright administration in Europe, which discourages businesses and allows for US dominance.
Ott then asked if there was a common understanding of European culture. Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke said it was not easily definable, a statement with which Schaake agreed. Schaake nevertheless suggested that it was “a layered landscape with a number of different aspects – language, tradition, expression, cuisine, the arts, everything.”
“Culture,” proposed moderator Alison Smale, Executive Editor of the International Herald Tribune, “is the Europe brand.”
The European Young Leaders: ‘40 under 40’ programme is a Friends of Europe and EuropaNova initiative that finds its roots in American leadership programmes aiming to create a new generation of European opinion leaders. The ‘40 under 40’ are composed of 40 talented individuals under the age of 40 with varied backgrounds and European nationalities. They are selected according to specific criteria to take part in a series of bi-annual meetings to collectively reflect on and generate proposals for a European Renaissance.
A follow-up meeting of the ‘40 under 40’ European Young Leaders will take place in Brussels on 7-9 June 2012.
The full report can be downloaded here.