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‘Creative Europe’ Puts Culture at the Heart of EU Policies Interview with Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

We meet up with the Commissioner in the TV studio of the Berlaymont, the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. These are busy times for the Commission and the Commissioner has a lot on her mind. She is however willing to reserve a few minutes in her schedule to talk exclusively for this Portugal Special about the threats and opportunities for cultural heritage in these economically challenging times. The Commissioner strongly feels that culture is at the heart of Europe. Last November, the European Commission published its proposal for the future ‘Creative Europe’ programme. What is the vision behind this new programme? Our vision behind ‘Creative Europe’ can be summed up very simply: We want to ensure our cultural and creative sectors achieve their full potential – in terms of their intrinsic value, their contribution to employment, to the European economy and to a more cohesive society. We want to create the best possible conditions to help them to be as vibrant and successful as possible. ‘Creative Europe’ will do this by helping European artists and cultural professionals to work across borders and pursue international careers, and by enabling their works to reach new audiences in other countries in Europe and beyond. Without this support, it would be difficult or impossible for them to break into new countries. The cultural and creative sectors, which include TV, cinema, music,


Commissioner Vassiliou and Europa Nostra President Plácido Domingo in Amsterdam 2011, photo by Jan-Willem Kaldenbach

literature, publishing, performing arts, fashion, design, heritage and related areas, employs some 8.5 million people in the European Union – but they face many challenges. The programme seeks to respond to these challenges, namely market fragmentation, globalisation, the need to adapt to the digital shift, financial obstacles to mobility faced by cultural and audiovisual professionals, limited circulation of cultural works across borders, lack of comparable data and low private investment. ‘Creative Europe’ will support tens of thousands of professionals every year to ensure that we help to safeguard and promote our cultural and linguistic diversity. We should not forget that our cultural and audiovisual works convey meanings and values which enhance mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue. You have proposed an increase of 37% in the budget for the ‘Creative Europe’ programme. Europa Nostra and many other stakeholders applaud this courageous proposal. What initial responses have you received from the Member States and the European Parliament? I think there is a widespread recognition that ‘Creative Europe’ is a carefully thought through programme, which seeks to maximise the impact of the growth-enhancing cultural and creative sectors in the European economy and society. It seeks to find the right balance between addressing the challenges that are best addressed at European level and the diverse situations that exist in the 27 Member States. It is precisely because we are convinced that culture, the arts and

heritage have so much to offer for us as individuals, for our societies and for our economies, that the Commission has tabled a significant increase on current investment levels. We now count on the support of the stakeholders, the Member States and the European Parliament to have our proposal approved. I appreciate that Europa Nostra is among those who are supportive of our proposal. Can you tell us more about the relevance and impact of the ‘Decalogue for Europe of Culture’ declaration which was adopted in February? The ‘Decalogue for Europe of Culture’, which I signed together with 22 European Ministers of Culture, is an example of the strong political will which exists to promote culture in the European political agenda. The joint declaration reaffirms that culture is at the heart of the European project and of European identity in all its diversity. In highlighting the importance of circulation of works and the value of culture for collective well-being and employment, it also echoes the goals of our existing Culture Programme and future ‘Creative Europe’ Programme.

What is the importance which the European Commission attaches to European activities related to cultural heritage within the future ‘Creative Europe’ programme? The Commission will naturally continue to attach importance to cultural heritage in the new ‘Creative Europe’ programme, which will start in 2014. It is a ‘cross-sectoral’ programme, which encourages collaboration not only between countries, but also between sectors. The challenges and opportunities identified by ‘Creative Europe’ correspond to those that cultural heritage is facing, so the programme will continue to support European cooperation projects and networks in this field. It will also provide funding for the European Capitals of Culture and the European Heritage Label, initiatives which both celebrate our shared cultural heritage. This year, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of cooperation between the European Commission and Europa Nostra within the framework of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards. How do you expect the Prize to evolve and develop in the period 2014-2020?

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EN Executive President Denis de Kegorlay, EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and EN President Plácido Domingo with the Dutch award winners 2011

The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/ Europa Nostra Award is the most prestigious of its kind in Europe. We attract the foremost experts for the jury and the selected winners set a global benchmark for state-ofthe-art cultural heritage projects in conservation, research, dedicated service and education, training and awareness-raising. The Prize is also an effective means for raising awareness among decision-makers and the public about the value of cultural heritage for European society and the economy and our responsibility for protecting it for future generations. We will continue to support the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage through the ‘Creative Europe’ programme. The EU Cultural Agenda emphasises the need to ‘mainstream’ culture and cultural heritage in all relevant EU policy and funding programmes. Europa Nostra and its partner organisations, grouped within the European Heritage Alliance, are therefore encouraging the inclusion of cultural heritage in other EU programmes, such as Horizon 2020 and under the regional cohesion policy. As the Commissioner in charge of culture, how do you intend to obtain the commitment of your colleagues within the European Commission to contribute in a more substantive

way to the ‘mainstreaming objective’? I agree that cultural heritage policy must be fully integrated with other policy areas at European level – and that is one of our objectives. Mainstreaming in this way will allow us to identify the best ways of protecting cultural heritage and promoting it as a resource for sustainable development and for the well-being of Europe’s citizens. I work closely with my fellow Commissioners to ensure that culture is taken on board in other EU policies and programmes. The fruits of this close cooperation are perhaps best exemplified by the ‘Elements for a Common Strategic Framework’ for 2014-2020, which was adopted by the Commission in March and which highlights the many funding opportunities available for culture in the context of the EU Cohesion Policy. Europa Nostra welcomes the recent launch of the European Heritage Label. Can you share with us some of your favourite heritage places in your own country, Cyprus, but also elsewhere in Europe? The European Heritage Label will highlight sites that celebrate the history and development of the European project and the European

Union. I am convinced it will encourage more people, especially the younger generation, to think about the European dimension of our shared history. I am sure that it will also be good for tourism and the economy. The first sites to receive the new Label will be announced in 2013. I do not wish to pre-judge the selection process but I can mention some of my favourite sites in Cyprus: the ancient Greek theatres in Paphos and Limassol, and the Venetian walls of Nicosia. In April, I visited the former home of Robert Schuman in Scy-Chazelles, France. I am sure that most of your readers will know that Schuman was one of the founding fathers of the European project, so I expect this will be one of the first nominations for the new European Heritage Label. Next year, Europa Nostra will mark its 50th anniversary with two key public events: in June 2013 in Athens and in autumn 2013 in Brussels. Would you like to convey a special message to our large panEuropean network on the eve of this milestone? Your role, in building bridges between cultural heritage and the communities where it is located, is crucial. Europa Nostra helps to bring cultural heritage alive and helps to symbolise the soul of Europe. I would like to congratulate you on all you have accomplished during the past half century and to express my appreciation, on behalf of the Commission, for our very fruitful partnership. I know that we can count on your inspiration and creativity to help the cultural heritage sector tackle the challenges ahead. I am sure these are just the first 50 years of a very long and successful contribution to Europe’s cultural heritage and to the European integration process.

‘Creative Europe’ Puts Culture at the Heart of EU Policies  

An interview with European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou

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