Towards a new generation of cultural funding

by Marje Brütt

The cultural and creative sector is the third biggest employer in the European Union being only excelled by the construction and the food sectors.[1] Besides their rather underestimated economic importance, culture and creativity build bridges between people and positively influence various areas, e.g. education, well-being or democracy. Consequently, culture contributes to the objectives of the European integration. Therefore, it is necessary to foster our cultural and political identity, to preserve our diversity and increase the intercultural dialogue as it is mentioned in Article 167 of the Treaty of Lisbon.[2]

In order to give credit to the cultural sector and to support its further development, the European Union launched Creative Europe in 2014 as the EU’s funding programme for the cultural, creative and audiovisual sectors.[3] As such it is in place for seven years (2014-2020) and consists of two sub-programmes that used to exist independently before: MEDIA and CULTURE. While MEDIA[4] is dedicated to the audiovisual sector and helps promoting audiovisual works, CULTURE covers funding for all other cultural and creative areas including amongst others performing and visual arts, literature, music, street art and cultural heritage. In total, 1,46 billion Euros are foreseen for the whole programme meaning for the whole seven years and all participating countries.[5] Related to the amount of participating countries, this amount can change throughout the years. In addition to the 28 EU Member States, interested European countries can associate with Creative Europe and thereby increase the programme’s budget. In the past years, the list of participating countries grew continuously up to 41 countries in 2018, including amongst others Tunisia, Georgia, Ukraine, Albania and Armenia, boosting the intercultural exchange in the European neighbourhood.[6] Simultaneously, countries can also leave the group as it was the case with Turkey in autumn 2016 and could be happening again with the upcoming Brexit in 2019.

Even though the geographical outreach of Creative Europe is growing, the programme and its budget are relatively small when compared to other European funding possibilities such as Erasmus+ (total budget: 14,8 billion euro) or Horizon 2020 (total budget: 77 billion euro).[7] With CULTURE and MEDIA merging in 2014, the total budget of 1.46 billion euro is at least 9 percent higher than previously from 2007-2013. However, only 31 percent, representing about 455 million euro, is allocated to the CULTURE sub-programme.[8]

The situation in Europe is getting more and more complex and challenging with the rise of populism and Euroscepticism, increasing xenophobia, migratory pressures and ecological problems just to mention some.

Androulla Vassiliou
Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth in 2009.

According to the Eurobarometer “Future of Europe” from 2017, European citizens regard cultural diversity and openness to others as very important factors helping European societies cope with these challenges.[9] Additionally, the citizens identify culture, history and values as the most important ingredients for a common sense of belonging together in Europe. Ultimately, not only the citizens emphasize the importance of culture, but European politicians increasingly refer to culture as one of the main pillars of present societies as well, as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, at the European Culture Forum in Brussels 2016: “Culture can help us fight and prevent radicalization. But it can also foster economic growth. It can strengthen diplomatic relations and mutual understanding. It can help us stand together to common threats and build partnerships and alliances among institutions and – what counts even more – among people.”[10]

With Creative Europe running until 2020, a follow-up programme supporting cross-border cultural work and creative exchange is about to appear on the horizon. But how will the future Creative Europe look like? Will it take into account the developments mentioned above? Recent European publications allow a vague outlook on its successor.

In 2020, the current EU Multiannual financial framework (MFF) which covers seven years and thereby determines the run-time of the EU’s funding programmes comes to an end. Thus, 2018 is an important year as the European Commission is already preparing the future MFF running from 2021 until 2027. This long-term budget plan shapes the annual budgets and determines how much the EU will spend for its various areas of activities. In May 2018, the Commission published its first budgetary proposal which can already be considered an early guideline for the successor of Creative Europe. [11] According to that, Creative Europe is supposed to get 1,85 billion euro, which represents a slight boost in comparison to the present budget, even though only 609 million euro out of it are earmarked for the Culture sub-programme. But apart from the financial situation there are other influences on the future direction and design of Creative Europe.

Matera Italy
Matera (Italy), the second European Capital of Culture for 2019.

First of all, the European Commission relies on experiences and successes gained during previous and present structures of its cultural funding. One fundamental source is the so-called mid-term evaluation which analyses the implementation of Creative Europe including its successes and weaknesses regarding the years 2014 until 2016. This study is based on a public consultation published by the Commission in 2017 directed to the European cultural and creative sector to gather their feedback and experiences with both sub-programmes CULTURE and MEDIA.

Regarding CULTURE the evaluation critically points out a strong priorisation of economic objectives instead of artistic and social aims of the programme. At the same time, it underlines the role of culture and creativity for strengthening the European identity and solidarity – especially in times of increasing Euroscepticism and right-wing populism. Due to the little budget the success rate of submitted cultural projects decreased significantly in the last years, although the interest and the quality of submitted projects continue being high. Still, the study proves that the transnational cooperation and the intercultural exchange during the funded projects measurably contribute to the cultural sector’s professionalization and help fostering cultural diversity and understanding.  Nevertheless, it concludes that the chronic underfinancing prevents the programme from having a stronger impact on European societies.[12]

In this context, Culture Action Europe (CAE)[13], one of the major European networks informing and debating about culture and arts in the European policy, launched a campaign aiming at doubling the EU budget for culture. In fact, only 0,14 percent of the whole EU budget (2014-2020) are dedicated to Creative Europe out of which only one third is dedicated to CULTURE. Although cultural projects can receive funding from various other EU programmes such as Europe for Citizens or the European Regional Development Fund, Creative Europe still is the main programme supporting the cultural sector all over Europe. Concerning culture as one of the main elements European societies and policies should build on, CAE calls for at least 1 percent of the total EU budget being spent on culture which so far has not been taken into account in the first post-2020 budgetary draft .[14]

Similarly, the European Commission seems to recognize the high potential of culture by having presented the new EU Agenda for Culture in May 2018. Corresponding to this draft, she plans more than 25 initiatives to use culture to its full capacity in order to shape open, inclusive and creative societies across the whole continent. Thereby, she wants to focus on cultural heritage, digitization and on the social and economic potential of culture as well as on its role for external relations. Therefore, the cultural agenda shall affect a wide range of European funding instruments. Regarding Creative Europe, the agenda predicts amongst others to increase the mobility for people engaged in the cultural and creative sector and plans to support more inclusive projects for raising the cultural participation and facilitating intercultural exchange.[15]

Tibor Navracsics
Tibor Navracsics (2015)

According to this, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, introduced a first proposal for Creative Europe post-2020 at the end of May 2018 underlining: “Culture has always been at the heart of the European project. It is what brings people together. The cultural and creative sectors also have a crucial role in driving economic and social development, and they enable us to build strong international relations. We have big ambitions for culture, and a strong Creative Europe will enable us to make them a reality. I call on all Member States and the European Parliament to back this approach.”[16]

This first draft includes successful elements of present Creative Europe like supporting transnational cooperation projects, platforms and networks, but foresees new approaches as well. Besides a new mobility fund for cultural and creative workers, several sectors shall get more attention such as architecture, design, cultural heritage, cultural tourism, fashion and the publishing sector. Furthermore, a special fund called Music Moves Europe shall be dedicated to the music sector whose implementation is already prepared by several pilot calls. Despite the extensions, the overall aims of the programme remain the same: increasing the competitiveness of the cultural and creative sectors as far as fostering the cultural diversity and European identity with special regard to empowering the European citizens and creating opportunities for them to actively engage and participate in the civil and political society.[17]

So far these are merely proposals which still have to be negotiated by the European Parliament and the Commission in order to be finally adopted by the European Council. Usually, this process takes a while but for ensuring a smooth transition between the present and the future funding programme – which is mostly important for the cultural actors being able to continue their work without problems – an agreement in 2019 would be desirable. So, until then, slight changes regarding the financial situation and the programme’s content are possible. Either way it remains to be seen whether Creative Europe can really make a difference shaping the European societies and achieving its ambitious aims in spite of its little budget.

The official logo of the Creative Europe Programme; all beneficiaries must show this logo on their website and other communication tools. Spot it next time you take part in a cultural project or event somewhere in Europe!

[1] European Commission (2018): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council. Mid-term evaluation of the Creative Europe programme (2014-2020). COM/2018/248 final.
[2] Vertrag Lissabon
[4] As MEDIA is basically dedicated to the film industry, this article focuses on the sub-programme CULTURE.
[6] The whole list of participating countries is regularly updated and available here:
[8] REGULATION (EU) No 1295/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 December 2013 establishing the Creative Europe Programme (2014 to 2020) and repealing Decisions No 1718/2006/EC, No 1855/2006/EC and No 1041/2009/EC:
[9] European Commission (2017): Standard Eurobarometer 87:
[10] European External Action Service (2016): Speech of the HR/VP Federica Mogherini at the Culture Forum in Brussels:
[11] European Commission (2018): Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of regions. A Modern Budget for a Union that Protects, Empowers and Defends – The Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027. {SWD(2018)171final}:
[12]European Commission (2018): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council. Mid-term evaluation of the Creative Europe programme (2014-2020). COM/2018/248 final.
[13] Culture Action Europe itself is supported by Creative Europe Culture.
[14] Culture Action Europe (2018): The Value and Values of Culture:
[15] European Commission (2018): Commission Staff Working Document. A New European Agenda for Culture – Background Information. SWD (2018) 167 final:
[16] European Commission (2018): Press release: EU budget – reinforcing Europe’s cultural and creative sectors:
[17] European Commission (2018): Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Creative Europe programme (2021 to 2027) and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1295/2013, COM/2018/366:

Featured picture: Roman Theatre of Philippopolis (Plovdiv, Bulgaria). The city will be one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2019; this programme is also included in the Creative Europe budget.

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