The practice of culture policy in European cities
Challenges and perspectives
The budget cuts regarding culture policy, be it publicly or privately financed, are an obvious proof of a crisis which has consequences for every economic sector.
The financial, economical, and structural crisis shaking Europe these days definitely has an impact on the regulatory systems and economical planning of European municipalities. We have noted the negative ramifications of this crisis on culture policy budgets, especially on public ones, and we are worried about them. We also regret a significant reduction of culture policy in the private sector. The strict budgets limitations sometimes additionally leave some municipalities almost bankrupt. The combination of these factors, plus a cutback in public subsidies – which is already rendered moot in some countries such as the Netherlands or Hungary, for example – makes for a dark perspective as far as the local culture policy in Europe is concerned.
The private sector – which is not to be considered an helper in need, but a partner, is not able to make a sufficient contribution in such a situation any more. It is also weakened by the crisis and its investments in the cultural sector have decreased.
Great Britain has a comparatively strong developed private funding sector, but 2010, a decrease of 3% has been observed. Municipalities cut back their commitments to culture massively. In federal countries such as Germany where culture is taken care of by the states and cities, the latter ones have cut their culture budgets between 10% and 30%. At least, the Scottish government has had the welcome courage to not follow the directives given by the main government in London.
Is there a possible way out in such a situation?
Of course, a very determined political will is necessary to maintain cultural budgets, but one should think of concrete solutions, new political methods and implementations nevertheless. For a network like Les Rencontres, the participation in such a thinking process is a concern and an obligation. To find a possible way out, you have to deal with the European culture landscape. There are indeed some projects, especially the programme “European Capital of Culture” which offer some positive perspectives. We suggest an internal redistribution of the European budget and a redefinition of the programme as of 2013-2020.
The project “European Capital of Culture”: a structural EU programme
The programme „European Capital of Culture has been a success project for years now. Since 1985, individual European cities are chosen annually to become European capitals of culture due to heir cultural richness and their diversity, but most of all due to their submitted programmes. In the meantime, you will recognise the political development of such a project and the role it has in national debates when reading of the following examples: in France, for 2013, in Spain and Poland for 2016 (before the crisis).
Let us examine the example of the city of Marseille which was chosen to be capital of culture 2013. With this title, the EU programme has rewarded the city and its commitment to reviving the urban surrounding. In this context, culture has become the booster for an economic strategy and the urban renovation of Marseille. At the same time, this programme is an opportunity for the cities to introduce their culture and cultural heritage to a large public, including considerable profits when doing so.
At first, it seems to be necessary to observe the future situation as of 2017, 2018, and 2019. How can we combine such a project with the crisis? We will certainly have to fall back on simple principles. After 2020, this programme will have to adjust to the 20/20 strategy which has undergone extensive restructurings due to the crisis. The European cities have to deal with a challenge consisting of two different components. Their management strategy should be capable of granting the protection and promotion of the cultural development on the one hand and the economical development on the other. On a local level, culture has to be an integral part of strategies for an economical development of the cities. Will this 20/20 strategy -which is committed to supporting an economy based on creativity- help to intertwine the economical and cultural development in an harmonious way?
Promising perspectives for non-EU cities
The situation of the cities in non-EU member states or in countries outside the Euro zone should be observed with attention: regarding our agenda, this area of research seems to be promising. Cities such as Zagreb, Belgrad, Skopje, or Tirana deserve special attention and an exchange of experiences, advice, and best practices. Covering all these fields, Les Rencontres is committed to being the preferred cooperation platform.
The objective is to develop artist partnerships by supporting especially the mobility of the arts scene and the artists of all genres (theatre, arts, cinematography... ). This shall make the development of new art scenes all over Europe possible. The main focus should be on the mutual benefit of such a cooperation. In this context, EUNIC (European Union of National Institutes for Culture) should have the important role of coordinating cultural relationships and establishing partnerships.
president Les Rencontres