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Europe’s regions and cities making a difference / Androulla Vassiliou.

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“Culture and Creativity: Europe’s regions and cities making a difference”

 Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner.  Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

 Speech at Committee of Regions Conference “Europe’s got talent” (Brussels, 29 January 2014).



Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure to be with you this afternoon in the Committee of the Regions.

I would like to thank and congratulate the Committee for organising this important and inspiring event.  And I salute your endeavours to put culture and creativity higher on the European agenda.  I share your ambition entirely.

We all know that culture and creativity can play a key role in local and regional development, and raise the profile of European cities and regions.  This is apparent from different studies, and it emerges clearly from the work carried out within the EU Agenda for Culture, our process of cooperative policy exchanges with member States and stakeholders.

The impact of the cultural and creative sectors can of course be measured in terms of conventional economic growth. But we can also see a deeper value, by which I mean the promotion of the overall creativity of societies, the encouragement of the unique identity of the places where culture flourishes, improvements in the quality of life and the enhancing of local image and prestige.

That is why, in the Communication I presented in 2012, I highlighted the need for an integrated approach to supporting the cultural and creative sectors, involving different sectors and all levels of governance.  The regions and municipalities are the central players for supporting creativity at the grassroots level.

I strongly believe that in our cities and regions, culture can offer a solution in times of economic downturn, because of its contribution to growth, jobs and social cohesion and thanks to its potential for fostering innovation.

Let me take this opportunity to warmly thank Anton Rombouts, rapporteur for the Committee of the Regions’ opinion on this Communication, for his passion and determination in promoting the value of creativity.

Over time, smart investment in cultural and creative sectors produces real, lasting results which can help Member States to meet the objectives of our Europe 2020 strategy.

With almost one million enterprises, the cultural and creative sectors represent 4.5% of the total business economy in Europe.  They employ over three million people, mostly in small companies, and provide work to many self-employed persons.  Unlike other segments of the economy, these industries have shown great resilience in the face of the crisis, and continue to grow.

This is particularly true of urban areas, where investment in culture has often improved the fortunes of cities and towns by radically changing their image, improving social cohesion and boosting the local economy. In Amsterdam, 7% of jobs come from the creative sectors; in Helsinki, they represent 9% of business turnover.

Our European Capitals of Culture are the best proof of the capacity of culture and creativity to transform economies and societies.

Becoming a European Capital of Culture sets in motion a long-term process that can change a city and an entire region. A rise in tourism, urban regeneration and development are just some of the positive effects, not to mention the spillover effects on other sectors that bring long-term economic and social benefits.

Cities like Marseille, Liverpool, Bilbao and Linz can testify to this. Their example makes a strong case for investing in culture for the healthy economic and social development of our regions.

This month, I launched the European Union’s new Creative Europe programme with an almost 10% increase in funding.  Creative Europe will promote culture and creativity, and boost the contribution of the cultural and creative sectors to the EU’s competitiveness and cohesion.

Its main objectives are to foster innovation, audience-building and the development of new business models, and to strengthen the financial capacity of these sectors, in particular small and medium sized entities.

One of our most ambitious innovations is a new loan guarantee for the cultural and creative sectors, which complements our traditional support based on grants. Our goal is to give European cultural operators easier access to bank loans.

The new guarantee facility will come into force gradually. It will provide guarantees to banks operating in or trying to enter these sectors.  It will help bankers to gain the expertise they need to analyse the risks specific to this sector.  As each euro spent is multiplied several times and re-invested, this instrument will have a much stronger impact than the simple allocation of grants.

Of course, Creative Europe is not the only source of funding for the cultural and creative sectors. Other EU funding programmes such as Erasmus+, COSME and Horizon 2020 will also support skills development, entrepreneurship, research and innovation.

And our Structural and Investment Funds – still the EU’s best-funded instruments – remain open to the cultural community as well as national, regional and local authorities. We have evidence that regions and cities that have promoted the cultural sectors under broader cross-sector strategies have met with success.

Therefore the EU will continue to promote smart investment in the cultural and creative sectors through the Structural and Investment Funds for 2014-2020. Member States are currently working with the European Commission to establish priorities for their partnership agreements and operational programmes.

I am pleased to see that a large majority of Member States mention investment in the cultural and creative sectors as well as cultural heritage in their partnership agreements, which clearly reflects extensive consultation with regional authorities.

Now we need to make sure that investments such as these are embedded in the operational programmes. For cities and regions the major challenge – as always – is to ensure that culture is part of their long-term integrated development strategies.  In this way they lay the ground for their own economic success, while contributing to Europe’s economic recovery.

Cultural heritage too is high on our agenda, in particular when it comes to its positive impact on the economy, on job creation and on the attractiveness of a city or region. Following up on our 2012 Communication on the cultural and creative sectors, I will propose a new initiative later this year on cultural heritage.

Our goal will be to emphasise the intrinsic and societal value of cultural heritage, while making better use of its economic potential as a means to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This will not be possible without efficient policy cooperation and more exchange of good practice among EU Member States and heritage stakeholders, including at local and regional level.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that we need a new narrative for Europe, where culture and creativity take up their rightful place.  Here, I am totally at one with the vision set out by the Committee of the Regions.

As we prepare the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy, we have strong evidence that by leveraging the potential of their cultural and creative sectors Europe’s regions and cities can make a strong contribution to economic and social development. This is an opportunity for culture and creativity to grow, to become embedded in policies for development, and to be better recognised.

I am certain that today’s discussions have enriched the ongoing reflection on culture and creativity, and l look forward to the outcome of your work and the close cooperation of our institutions.

 Thank you.♦

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