What is it about?

Across Europe’s regions and cities, culture is highly valued by residents and visitors alike. Cultural and creative industries are also a vital asset for regional economic competitiveness and attractiveness.

Under the European Capitals of Culture programme (now celebrating its 30th anniversary) cities have successfully invested in culture to create jobs, heal their social fabric and transform their image.

Funding for regions and cities is available through a number of EU programmes, including to support culture in regional development. The EC also works with national, regional and city authorities to share best practice on culture and regional development.

Why is it needed?

Cultural and creative sectors need to be integrated into regional and local development strategies in order to:

  • promote traditional cultural assets
  • stimulate the development of creative businesses
  • support investment in infrastructure and in human capital
  • bring spill-over effects into the wider local economy

This is in line with the regional economic development principle of "smart specialisation".

What is the EC’s role?

The European Commission has three main roles:

  1. to provide financial support to local and regional authorities
  2. to raise awareness about the potential of cultural and creative sectors for regional and local development
  3. to help local and regional authorities formulate integrated strategies

Financial support is provided primarily through the European Structural and Investment Funds.

What has been done so far?

Since 1985, under the European Capitals of Culture programme, cities have successfully invested in culture to create jobs, promote social inclusion, and transform their image.

Under the European Regional Development Fund from 2014-2020, over 170 European regions have designated cultural and creative industries as priority sectors in their Research & Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation.

Awareness-raising and policy support on culture has been provided through working groups of national experts, who produce policy handbooks including this one on the strategic use of EU support programmes for culture .

What are the next steps?

From 2015-2017, a peer-learning project Culture for Cities and Regions, funded by Creative Europe, is examining existing cultural initiatives and their impact on local and regional development, and supporting the exchange of information and practices among cities and regions, in three broad areas:

  • cultural heritage,
  • cultural and creative industries, and
  • culture for social inclusion.

Outputs of this project include a catalogue of 70 case studies, study visits to 15 cities/regions, and expert coaching for 10 cities/regions.

Calls for participation in study visits and coaching are being published in 2015 and 2016 on the project website.

The EC’s Joint Research Centre is also currently developing a new Cultural and Creative Cities index intended to inform urban and regional policy-making in Europe and beyond.

A session on Culture for Cities and Regions is being held at the European Culture Forum on 27 November 2015.