What is the European Commission's role in culture?

With individual EU Member States responsible for their own culture sector policies, the role of the European Commission is to help address common challenges, such as the impact of the digital shift, changing models of cultural governance, and the need to support the innovation potential of the cultural and creative sectors.

The Commission is also committed to promoting cultural diversity, protecting cultural heritage, easing obstacles to the mobility of cultural professionals, and supporting the contribution of cultural and creative industries to boosting growth and jobs across the EU, in line with the principles of the current European Agenda for Culture.

The Commission has now proposed a New European Agenda for Culture (see also the accompanying Staff Working Document, press release and factsheet). The New Agenda takes account of the evolution of the cultural sector, focuses on the positive contribution that culture makes to Europe’s societies, economies and international relations, and sets out enhanced working methods with the Member States, civil society and international partners.

The New Agenda provides the framework for the next phase of cooperation at EU level, which will start in 2019.  Member States define the main topics and working methods for policy collaboration on culture, through Work Plans for Culture adopted in the Council of Ministers.

What does this involve?

The 2015-18 Work Plan for Culture, adopted by EU Culture Ministers in December 2014, sets out four main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policy-making:

  • Accessible and inclusive culture
  • Cultural heritage
  • Cultural and creative sectors: creative economy and innovation
  • Promotion of cultural diversity, culture in EU external relations, and mobility

This list of priorities is complemented by a further 20 concrete actions.

A new Work Plan for Culture is due to be adopted by EU Culture Ministers to start in 2019.

Why is it needed?

The culture sector is, increasingly, a source of job creation, contributing to growth in Europe. The culture sector is also an excellent conduit for promoting social inclusion and supporting cultural diversity.

The Agenda thus contributes to both the 10 priorities of the European Commission for 2014-2019 and satisfying Europe's commitments to international agreements, such as the United Nations Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

What has been done so far?

Following the successful implementation of the EU's Culture and MEDIA programmes, in 2014 the Commission launched Creative Europe; a consolidated framework programme in support of Europe's cultural and creative sectors.

Programme funding is complemented by peer learning activities between EU Member State governments (through the Open Method of Coordination ) and between cities and regions, as well as regular reports and studies, and data-gathering designed to provide up-to-date, relevant information on the culture sector and the economy of culture.

Further policy measures and priorities are identified through international cultural cooperation, specifically in the form of discussions with Member States, as well as through regular progress reviews on the implementation of the Agenda for Culture.

On 8 June 2016 the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy adopted a Joint Communication Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations.

On 22 May 2018, following consultations with culture sector stakeholders, the Commission adopted a New European Agenda for Culture.

What are the next steps?

The Creative Europe programme, until 2020, is the main source of EU funding for the culture sector. It also supports policy work undertaken in the framework of the Work Plan for Culture, which runs until the end of 2018.

Joint work on ensuring comparable and high quality statistics on culture in the EU, which is a horizontal priority of the Work Plan, results in new data regularly published by Eurostat.

A number of working groups of Member State experts are currently meeting, under the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), to discuss topics defined in the Work Plan for Culture. The OMC remains the main working method among Member States in the field of culture.

Other working methods include ad-hoc expert groups, thematic seminars convened by the Commission, studies, informal meetings of officials from Ministries of Culture and Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and conferences such as the biennial European Culture Forum.

The next phase of cooperation at EU level in the field of culture will be discussed by the Council in the second part of 2018, with a view to preparing the next Work Plan for Culture starting in 2019.