Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us for the online launch of Western Balkans cultural cooperation projects.  

Let me begin by thanking my colleague Commissioner Várhelyi and his team in DG NEAR who provided 5 million euro in support to the cultural and creative sectors in the Western Balkans.

This was the starting point without which we would not be here.

So thank you dear Olivér!

And thank you to all the colleagues in the services, NEAR, EAC, and the Executive Agency for implementing the call but in particular for succeeding in the difficult task of selecting only 13 projects from nearly 350 high quality applications!

I am pleased to be here to congratulate the project coordinators (and all those working in the projects) and to underline how important cultural cooperation is between the EU and the Western Balkans and also within the region.

Culture has the power to unite, to create empathy, to share our experience, values, traditions, heritage and sense of belonging.

Personally, I am very committed to assisting the integration of the Western Balkans in all areas under my responsibility and in all EU programmes.

Culture is also dear to my heart, especially after the devastating effects of COVID-19 in the cultural and creative sectors.

I am therefore doubly happy that these projects are able to start and to bring together 90 cultural organisations from the Western Balkans and the EU.

 

WB Call projects

A lot about this special Call for cultural cooperation with the Western Balkans was already been outlined.

Your 13 projects not only address the challenges of the region, they go beyond them. They tackle cross-cutting issues such as gender equality, youth, children, women’s empowerment, the environment, and migration.

I am particularly pleased that nearly half the projects will be coordinated by an organisation in the region and that nearly 3 million euro of the 5 million euro budget will be going to the Western Balkan partners.

But more importantly, as we heard, these projects are:

    • Collaborative: bringing diverse cultures together to co-operate and learn;
    • Creative: taking ground-breaking approaches;
    • Sustainable: creating lasting change, conscious of the environment around us and;
    • Interdisciplinary: using multiple cultural forms including cultural heritage, dance, theatre, graphic arts and literature, architecture and many more.

The tremendously high number of applications indicate the relevance of this special Call for the region.

Even if not selected, the 760 cultural organisations, which took part in the nearly 350 applications, have started collaborations, which I hope will continue and spill over into other activities, including participation in the new Creative Europe programme.

 

Association of the WB in Creative Europe 2021-2027

The new Creative Europe programme is about to be formally approved in the coming weeks.

Although primarily intended for our Member States, neighbouring countries, particularly the Western Balkans, are encouraged to participate.

My services are already working on associating the Western Balkans to the new programme to ensure a continuation for your cultural stakeholders from one programme generation to the next.

The new Creative Europe programme is aligned with the New European Agenda for Culture.

It evolves from and builds on the previous programme. The main two objectives remain unchanged:

    • promoting European cultural and linguistic diversity and cultural heritage
    • reinforcing the competitiveness of our cultural and creative sectors

The programme will continue with the same structure; that is with three strands: Culture, Media, and Cross-Sectoral.

With a significantly increased budget, it will offer more funding opportunities for many actions.

For example, the successful mobility scheme for individual artists and cultural professionals, i-Portunus, will be reinforced with a much higher budget.

This particular scheme is very important as we are slowly coming out of lockdown. I read with interest the stories of how a grant of about 3,000 euro has helped the careers especially of emerging artists.

More support will also be provided to specific cultural sectors, more capacity-building actions and networking possibilities.

Finally, the EU co-financing amount for cooperation projects will be significantly increased, allowing for greater outreach to diverse cultural organisations of all sizes.

I invite you and your peers to take part in the first Calls for Proposals to be announced soon.

 

WB Agenda

Besides the Creative Europe programme, we are extending the cooperation on culture between the EU and the Western Balkans on a political level.

Via the Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

This Agenda has been developed over the last year with Commission services, and after several consultations with key stakeholders from the region, including the Ministries of Culture.

It has received support from the EU member States and next week a Joint Declaration is planned to be signed at a Ministerial event.

We are now eager to move ahead and start implementing this new initiative, including establishing a political dialogue at ministerial level, on culture for the first time.

The region’s needs, priorities and advances can be discussed in this important forum.

Where our experiences on cross-cutting issues such as gender equality, access to culture, greening policies and digital conversion can be shared, and targets set.

The inclusion of culture in the Western Balkans Agenda shows the importance of culture for our societies and intercultural dialogue between the EU and the Western Balkans.

Culture is key to bringing people together and enhancing our mutual understanding. This of course is vital for peace and reconciliation.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, I am dedicated and committed to assisting the Western Balkans’ integration and cooperation in all areas of my portfolio.

After hearing the passion and creativity of your projects, I am certain that we will succeed, together, to bring about much needed reforms, advances, and more support, working hand in hand with your governments and stakeholders.

Congratulations once again.

I look forward to your questions.