EFA urges: Arts and cultural dimension vital in the 2020 EU Strategy

21 January 2010

The European Festivals Association (EFA) in partnership with the European House for Culture submitted input to the EU 2020 Consultation on the post-Lisbon strategy. “The significance and the role of culture in the process of European integration are aspects which can no longer be ignored,” urges the EFA document. It is crucial for the European Union and its Member States to implement a new vision and action plan for its economic and social development. One which learns from the lessons of the past, refocuses on European values of equality, solidarity and openness, and paves the way for future societies where quality of life, respect for human rights and active citizenship prevail. The EU and Culture European Commission President José Manuel Barroso stressed in a speech in the framework of the Berliner Konferenz 2004 that “the EU has reached a stage of its history where its cultural dimension can no longer be ignored... Europe is not only about markets, it is also about values and culture. (…) Economy is a necessity for our lives; culture is really what makes our life worth living." Considering that for the first time in EU history a European agenda for culture is applied by the European Commission and the Member States, setting the basis for a first common ‘European Agenda for Culture’. Therefore, the Commission’s proposal for the EU 2020 Strategy should include the arts and cultural dimension, so vitally important to the building of a European identity and the development of the European project. Festivals have been playing a key role in this process; they have always been powerful promoters of the protection of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to culture and their programmes help to boost the circulation of ideas and people, the creation of a more peaceful coexistence and the promotion of an active European citizenship. The EU 2020 strategy and the cultural dimension The EU 2020 strategy document states that in developing a new vision and direction for EU policy, we need to recognise that conserving energy, natural resources and raw materials, using them more efficiently and increasing productivity will be the key drivers of the future competitiveness of our industry and our economies. However, EFA feels a fundamental issue is ignored in this reasoning: none of the above can ever be achieved without the most valuable resource we can ever possess: qualified human resources and proficient qualified leadership. Arts and culture contribute to the improvement of human resources in many ways (see also Access to Culture Platform documents): • Culture is a fundamental factor in people’s lives and access to cultural life is a major contributor to the well-being of people. • Artistic creativity and creation allow for an understanding of personal situations from the others’ perspectives. In today’s world, experience with contemporary art enriches and exercises the mind to be able to understand and live in complexity – a set of skills of crucial importance. • Cultural activities can be effective tools in formal, non-formal and/or informal learning to ensure that citizens acquire the key competences for lifelong learning such as creativity, entrepreneurship, and cultural expression and awareness. Access to culture & active citizenship Offering means and channels for participation in public life, including its cultural aspects, adds to the sense of social cohesion and the development of common values. A society that takes into account the rights of its citizens to access cultural experiences has a higher chance to succeed than a society in which the rights of citizens' participation have not been given a central role. “Empowering people also means making markets work for people. Citizens must be empowered to play a full part in the single market. This requires strengthening their ability and confidence to buy goods and services cross-border, in particular on-line,” states the EU Consultation document. EFA urges that empowering people means empowering them to actively participate in the social, political and cultural life of their cities, their countries and Europe. It means to create the conditions for active citizenship, it means creating a Europe of Europeans, not for Europeans. Societies which posses a strong artistic and cultural life also see an increase of civic engagement, and therefore, the strengthening of active citizenship. Through participation and access to arts and culture, individuals and communities reflect on their views on societies, imagine the world they want to live in and elaborate individual and collective standpoints. “A Europe of values” The EU stresses that it is essential that we are “a Europe of values.” If Europe is to continue to be a role model, if Europe is to give all citizens the freedom and security to develop their potential to the full, free from discrimination, rejoicing in its rich diversity then culture cannot be left out of any strategy. Furthermore, EU declares that “we need to actively promote human rights, never hesitating to condemn violations of these fundamental rights.” Consequently it should remember that “everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts” (Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948). The EU has the opportunity to devise a long-term strategy that, exactly because it keeps this particular Human Right in mind, will promote a sustainable development based on human values that will make Europe a true role model. The EU should not let this opportunity go by. EFA and the European House for Culture recommend The European Festivals Association and the European House for Culture invite the Commission to: • incorporate the cultural dimension in its strategies: only when arts and culture and the importance of audience development and participation is recognised and addressed properly by policy-makers will policies on creativity and innovation, arts and education, youth access to culture, intercultural dialogue, multilingualism and linguistic diversity, social inclusion and citizenship, achieve their full potential; • recognise the important contribution of an active, vital, thriving cultural sector for society as a whole and mainstream the arts and culture element in all levels of policy making; • develop and support processes such as the structured dialogue with the cultural sector which represent a true engagement of civil society in the development of a notion of European citizenship; • take into consideration the recommendations drafted by the Access to Culture Platform; • recognise the opportunities of boosting the operational potential of networks as multipliers and civil society organisations in their respective fields, stimulating the dialogue and interaction, fostering collaborative relations and partnerships, creating synergies and strengthening power. Related documents and links: • Full consultation document submitted by EFA and the European House for Culture • European House for CultureAccess to Culture Platform and its documents • EU 2020 ConsultationEU 2020 strategy document • European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s speech at the Berliner Konferenz 2004European Agenda for CultureEFA’s Arts Festivals’ Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue