When COVID pandemic started, almost all over Europe, one of the first measures taken was to close theaters, cinemas and cultural centers where people could have been together, so more at risk of contagion.
Creative and Cultural sectors have been, together with Tourism, the ones that have immediately experienced the main and most severe impacts: festival, events, live performances postponed or cancelled, cultural projects stopped, European Capitals of Culture forced to fire creative team.
The quickest reaction has been to try and bring as much of this work as possible online on digital platforms but as much as this solution was able to give visibility to operators and their works, did not covered the costs of the human resources involved in cultural organizations and was completely missing the essence, which is not economic, of the link between arts, culture and their audience.
From a policy level point of view, EU states have reacted in different ways and, not a surprise, the more the CC sector was recognized as a key economic sector the faster the reaction.
Among the European networks, ECBN immediately launched a survey to measure the impact of the pandemic on European CCIs with the objective to then propose not only an analysis but also to push policy makers at different levels to take measures to counterfight the emergency showing once and for all that they believe on the economic and social value of the sector. On ECBN website is already possible to read the first results of the survey and the actions taken by EU countries which acted the fastest to support the sector.
Very interesting has been also the map created by KEA to collect and visualize, country by country, the specific policies proposed all over the world to support the sector.
In Italy, the first measures taken belonged to the law decree “Cura Italia” with measures for the CC sector like an extension of unemployment benefits to cultural workers or a monthly allowance for freelancers in the performing arts sector, from vouchers to reimburse tickets already sold in museum, cinema and theaters to suspension of social security payments and contributions for cultural organizations. At regional level, worth mentioning, the campaign launched by Puglia Creativa to measure the impact of COVID on the sector and a crowdfunding campaign to support the operators of the sector.
In other EU countries is worth mentioning the actions taken in France, with a €22m fund allocated to cultural sub-sectors, or the application to CC sectors of general funds for freelancers (in Belgium, Sweden, Germany).
Yesterday, Commissioner for Culture Marya Gabriel, presented the measures European Commission is putting in place to support the sector among which:
- Recognition of Culture as 1 of the 5 sectors in which the special state aid scheme could be applied
- The SURE scheme for temporary unemployment can be used by artists and creators out of work
- A €2m scheme of support to promote internationalization and cooperation of performing arts through digital and virtual exchanges
- A €5m scheme of support for cinemas
All these measures are good to face the emergency but are EU countries able to have a vision for a new brave program of investments in the CC sector? Or would the emergency dramatically reduce the resources available moving them, as usually happens when state budget cuts are needed, to other sectors felt as most relevant for reactivate the countries’ engines?
This is the key challenge for the CC sector from our point of view and it will be worth a European strong message to come first of all by giving adequate resources to CC sectors in the next 6 years EU budget.