None of the founding documents of the European Union proposes a strict and restrictive definition what culture is, leaving it at the discretion of the Member States and individuals to define it, based on their national, local and individual sensibility. The legal basis of the Creative Europe programme, the only European Union programme specifically devoted to supporting culture, provides nevertheless an open-ended definition of cultural and creative sectors.
- Find out more about this open-ended definition.
Grounds of EU competence in the field of culture
The introduction to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) refers to “drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe”. It also specifies that one of the aims of the European Union is to “respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and […] ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced’ (Article 3 TEU)”. Furthermore, Article 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) recognises that the EU’s competences in the field of culture are to “carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States”.
- Find out more about EU action in the field of culture - Article 167 TFEU.
Assisting the cultural and creative sectors
With individual EU Member States responsible for their own policies for the cultural sector, the role of the European Commission is to help address common challenges. These include the impact of digital technologies, changing models of cultural governance and the need to support the cultural and creative sectors in innovating.
The Commission carries out its actions in line with strategic documents on cultural cooperation as well as its own priorities, established for a given Commission term.
In order to ensure that the social and economic role of culture is acknowledged in wider EU policy making and actions, the Commission works on a number of key themes. It also makes sure that the complex nature of cultural and creative sectors is reflected in relevant EU legislation.
The Commission also helps Member States mitigate the adverse effects of crises and any challenges where coordinated EU response might prove beneficial.
Commission and culture – leadership and responsible services
Mariya Gabriel is currently the Commissioner responsible for the cultural and creative sectors. Her mandate is to ensure the full implementation of the New European Agenda for Culture, and promote the creative industries and the Creative Europe Programme. Her portfolio also includes innovation, research, education and youth.
The Commission department in charge of culture is the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC). DG EAC promotes EU level action in this field, covering cultural and creative sectors including cultural heritage, develops policies based on gathered data and evidence and manages the EU programme for culture - the Creative Europe programme.
Some other Commission departments working on issues connected to the cultural and creative sectors are
- Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT)
- Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW)
- Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD)
Culture-related issues are also covered in several other policies and programmes managed by other Commission services such as employment or local and regional development.