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.
According to the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council establishing the Creative Europe Programme (2014 to 2020),
'cultural and creative sectors' means all sectors whose activities are based on cultural values and/or artistic and other creative expressions, whether those activities are market- or non-market-oriented, whatever the type of structure that carries them out, and irrespective of how that structure is financed. Those activities include the development, the creation, the production, the dissemination and the preservation of goods and services which embody cultural, artistic or other creative expressions, as well as related functions such as education or management. The cultural and creative sectors include inter alia architecture, archives, libraries and museums, artistic crafts, audiovisual (including film, television, video games and multimedia), tangible and intangible cultural heritage, design, festivals, music, literature, performing arts, publishing, radio and visual arts.
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”. The Treaty 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”.
Article 167 TFEU provides further details on EU action in the field of culture. The EU must
“contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore. The actions by the Union should encourage cooperation between Member States and support and supplement their action by improving the knowledge and dissemination of the culture and history of the European peoples, conserving and safeguarding cultural heritage of European significance and fostering non-commercial cultural exchanges and artistic and literary creation, including in the audiovisual sector.”
“The Union and Member States may also foster cooperation with third countries and the competent international organisations. Respect for, and promotion of the diversity of European cultures need to be taken into account when taking action under other provisions of the Treaties.”
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:
- DG CONNECT (Communications Networks, Content and Technology)
- DG GROW (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs)
- RTD (Research and Innovation)
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.