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 digital technologies, changing models of cultural governance and the need to support the innovation potential of the cultural and creative sectors.

Following the 2007 European Agenda for Culture, the Commission adopted a New Agenda in May 2018 to take into account the evolution of the cultural sector. It focuses on the positive contribution that culture makes to Europe’s societies, economies and international relations and it sets out enhanced working methods with the Member States, civil society and international partners.

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

What does this involve?

The 2019-22 Work Plan for Culture, adopted on 27 November 2018, sets out five main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policy-making:

  • Sustainability in cultural heritage
  • Cohesion and well-being
  • An ecosystem supporting artists, cultural and creative professionals and European content
  • Gender equality
  • International cultural relations

These priorities are complemented by 17 concrete actions with clearly defined working methods and target outputs. Actions build on and develop further recent achievements at EU level, for instance actions in the field of cultural heritage or regarding international cultural relations; other actions cover new topics, for instance those relating to the music sector and to gender equality.

The 2015-18 Work Plan focused on 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.

Why is it needed?

The culture sector is increasingly a source of job creation, and contributes both to growth in Europe and quality of life for EU citizens. 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 to satisfying EU 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, including the Open Method of Coordination, support for projects that focus on improving exchanges between cities and regions, 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, particularly through discussions with Member States, as well as through regular progress reviews that investigate 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.

What are the next steps?

The Creative Europe programme is the main source of EU funding for the culture sector. The Programme also supports policy work undertaken under the Work Plans for Culture. As from 2021 a new programme will support policy action in the field of culture.

Starting in 2019, the next phase of cooperation at EU level in the field of culture will be guided by the new Work Plan for Culture.

Under the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), a number of working groups will be set up to in order to implement the new Work Plan and priorities defined therein. The OMC remains the main working method for Member States to collaborate in the field of culture.

Other working methods include ad-hoc expert groups, thematic seminars or working groups 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.

Cultural statistics remain a horizontal priority also in the new Work Plan. Joint work on ensuring comparable and high-quality statistics on culture in the EU has resulted in new data, which is regularly published by Eurostat.

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