Culture and the European Union


Culture in urban governance
EUROCULT21 Final Event
Barcelona, March 17-18, 2005

MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola

One could easily question the relationship between culture and the European Union. Does culture need the EU? Or vice versa, does the EU need culture?

One of the reasons why we have the Union of 25 Member States today is that throughout the history of the European integration, European leaders have understood, shared and valued also the cultures of European nations and regions. Culture has not been the driving force of integration, but it has been and will be one of the most important factors uniting Europeans.

Culture, one could argue, has not been as dependent on the European Union. But we cannot deny the fact that the progress made in European integration, in building a community of democratic states respecting the rule of law has also promoted European cultures.

The EU has created symbols such as the European Anthem or Flag, to symbolise Europe’s unity and identity in a wider sense. These symbols do not replace but complement different local, regional and national symbols of identities.

In the same way culture in the EU is about diversity. Cultural diversity, be it local, regional or national, has been acknowledged in the Treaties ever since the establishment of the European Community in 1957. The Treaty of Rome states that the Community is to ensure the
flowering of the cultures of the Member States.

There have been ministerial resolutions and other calls for European cultural initiatives since the 1970s, but it was not until 1991 that the EU officially began to deal with culture. In the treaty of Maastricht, the EU was given the task to “contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore”.

Since then, co-operation on cultural issues such as music, film, dance, heritage, art, etc. has been a Community competence. The EU will take action only if the objectives envisaged cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States. The competence in cultural policies belongs to
Member States; the EU can mainly enhance co-operation. The European Constitution will not, if ratified, bring changes to this.

An important tool in promoting cultural co-operation in the EU is the Culture 2000 framework programme providing funding for arts projects. The EU educational programmes and citizenship initiatives also foster co-operation. New multi-annual programme supporting Europe-wide cultural
networks and organisations started last year. The EU Structural Funds is becoming a more and more important source of funding for cultural projects. These projects often combine social aims or research activities with cultural content. Besides its intrinsic value, culture is thus seen as an instrument for social, and sometimes also economic, development.

Today, the annual budget for culture, 34 million euros, represents 0.03% of the total EU budget (of 106 billion euros). Per EU-citizen, the amount is 7 cents. In comparison, the annual budget of the Common
Agricultural Policy is 38 billion euros. Europe ’s 21 million dairy cows do get a better share from their agriculture budget.

Culture, be it in the form of music, film, heritage or art – just to name a few – belongs to the everyday life of the over 450 million European citizens. It deserves more EU funding.

Only a few days ago two important EU-level networks, (the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and the European Forum for the Arts and Heritage (EFAH),) launched a campaign – the ‘70 cents for culture campaign’ – to boost the resources which the EU makes available for
culture. The goal, 70 “culture” cents per EU citizen, is worth
supporting. It is a step forward – but does not bring us much closer to the EU-cows.


The EUROCULT21 project is about European cities and culture. Within all of our nations, cities play a major role with regard to all aspects of our life. In cities, the past of our history is visible. In times of increasing communication and mobility, cities have not lost their significance in our everyday life. On the contrary, it seems that our
opportunities to change places more easily and often have increased our awareness about the importance of urban qualities.

As the EUROCULT21 has shown very evidently, cities are the place for major achievements of our shared European history. Here, democratic values and attitudes can be learnt and exercised. Here, the economy finds its place to innovate production and consumption. Here, the
integration of different social and ethnic groups can be given shape.

Culture is a key factor for the sustainable development of our cities. To save the heritage of our cultural traditions will be a major challenge for European and national policies. It will need all fantasies, forces and intellectual resources to find new ways to provide lasting perspectives for our cultural heritage in times of constant change. Culture therefore can be understood as an achievement of urban life which will not be generated without the support from all parts of society. This includes the European Commission, the national state, civil society and the private sector.

What has to be done to foster the process of cultures in cities? Easy answers on the question how to support and govern the urban cultures therefore cannot be given. Cities are the backbone of European integration. They are and they increasingly will be the place where the European citizens will look for their personal place, a place to express his and her personal cultural needs.

As the exchange in the EUROCULT21 project showed so vibrantly, every city is different and in this variety of different urban cultures lays the richness of the upcoming common European society. Decision-makers will have to extend their sensibility for sustainable development in two
ways: Firstly, culture needs to be recognized as many cities have already done in the Barcelona declaration Agenda 21 For Culture. The European Commission should follow their example. Secondly, cities have
to be regarded as key actors in the process of sustaining the European culture.

Instead, we need a sophisticated and creative way of communication between all actors of the urban cultures. And as Europe and the European Unification is a common stage of even more of our life, we need to exchange between cities furthermore on a European level.

Our cultural heritage is entering this phase of interaction with Europe in a new quality, on a new intensive level. What will this mean for our urban cultures, when national borders are becoming increasingly unimportant and more and more chances are given to understand other
cultures? Frankly spoken, we are only at the beginning to understand how our cities are going to change. It is therefore most important to underline that the European Union acknowledges the fact that in their research policies, the field of urban studies will become a crucial
field of the common European Research Area. As we understand not simply as a place where all other processes in society are taking place, but where urban life has its own rules and problems, we need to put cities
high on the European research agenda.

A profound knowledge basis on cities and urban cultures is required. It is not easy to understand why the Sixth Framework for Research in Europe has abolished the theme of “Cities of the future and cultural heritage” which has been part in the proceeding framework. Even more, it is important to notice that research on urban issues requires new forms of scientific cooperation.

As EUROCULT21 showed, the cooperation between praxis and academics is a fruitful debate for both sides. The results presented today are clearly indicating that we will only understand the mechanisms of urban culture
and how to use their potentials, if we have a fine-tuned cooperation between researchers and actors in the cultural administration and sectors of the city. In future, it should be possible that the transfer of knowledge between both spheres can be realized in a substantial way.
We need people from the praxis delivering their knowledge in the educational and research centres and we need researchers which are enabled to have an intensive look into the praxis of urban cultures.

The motivating results of EUROCULT21 have shown that the European cities not only are transforming their cultural life, they also show that they have the intellectual, political and social potentials to let them work for guaranteeing our common understanding of European vibrancy and
heritage. The process of fostering cultures in European cities and of understanding their logic has however just begun.

What comes to understanding, philosopher Schopenhauer gave a good and practical advice for all of us who want to communicate. “One should use ordinary words and say extraordinary things”, he said. I admit, that as a politician I very often do the opposite: we politicians are tempted to use extraordinary, complicated words but sometimes say nothing more than platitudes.

This advice is also very rare talk from a philosopher: they are famous from using rather kryptic language. But it doesn’t actually surprise me that this excellent advice to use ordinary words and say extraordinary things comes from Schopenhauer, a man who was a great friend of arts and literature and who cherished the power of culture. The art had given him the experience of a magical spell in the midst of daily life. Art gave him an experience of a world where we can break the borders and limitations, make unique and special out of ordinary. Therefore aestetic experience was one of the key words in his philosophy.

Indeed, the art as its best is connecting people.

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