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Cohesion policy and culture

On 20 November 1996 the Commission approved a communication (COM(96) 512) devoted to the inter-relationship between economic and social cohesion and culture, and in particular to the contribution that the cultural sector can make to employment.

Culture has an important contribution to make to regional development on three counts. First, it is a major source of jobs. The activities involved in developing the cultural heritage as well as the cultural industries themselves and cultural products create a large number of jobs both directly and indirectly. Secondly, cultural provision is one of the factors in the choice of locations for investment projects because it contributes to the image and attractiveness of a region. In this connection, culture can play a significant role for example in regenerating declining urban and depopulated rural areas. Thirdly, culture makes a positive contribution towards social stimulation and integration and in this respect helps to achieve social cohesion within the Union.

Among the financial instruments available to the Union, the Structural Funds provide the most finance for projects connected directly or indirectly with culture. It is estimated that in 1989-93 more than ECU 400 million were devoted to projects directly relating to culture. In the current programming period (1994-99), the Structural Funds are funding this type of assistance through both regional development programmes (Objectives 1, 2 and 5(b)) and the Community Initiatives, as well as under innovative measures. For instance, the European Regional Development Fund has mobilized ECU 15 million to support 33 pilot schemes of interregional cooperation involving cultural and heritage projects.

In future, culture will need to be integrated more closely into regional and local development strategies in order to maximize the impact in terms of employment and innovation.

The potential of the Structural Funds in this field has not yet been fully exploited. The Funds should not only be used to preserve cultural heritage but can also support products and industries with a high growth potential, such as in the context of the information society.

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