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Coronavirus response

How the EU responds to the coronavirus outbreak in support of the cultural and creative sectors.

To complement and support Member States’ actions, the European Commission has taken a set of measures to tackle the consequences of the novel coronavirus outbreak on the cultural and creative sectors.

This page details both the horizontal measures and those related specifically to Creative Europe, the European Commission's programme to support the culture and audio-visual sectors.

EU guidelines on the safe resumption of activities in the cultural and creative sectors

On 29 June 2021, the Commission published EU guidelines to facilitate the safe resumption of activities in the cultural and creative sectors across the EU. The guidelines aim to provide a coordinated approach in line with the specific national, regional and local conditions. They are expected to guide the design and implementation of measures and protocols in EU countries and cover two key dimensions: the safe reopening of the cultural sectors and their sustainable recovery.

The guidelines are presented in the context of a gradual improvement in the public health situation in the EU and take into account the different epidemiological situations in the Member States. They provide the indicators and criteria (such as the viral circulation, the vaccination coverage, the use of protective measures, the use of tests and contact tracing) to be taken into account when planning the resumption of certain activities.

The guidelines are based on the expertise of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and exchanges with the Health Security Committee.

The Temporary Framework for state aid measures

The Temporary Framework for state aid measures to support the economy in the current Coronavirus crisis specifically refers to culture as a sector that is particularly hit.

This Framework enables Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under state aid rules to support the economy at this difficult time.

Member States can grant compensation to companies for damage suffered due to and directly caused by the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, Member States can grant financial support directly to consumers, for example for cancelled services or tickets that are not reimbursed by the operators concerned.

The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative

The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and CRII Plus have made €37 billion available to Member States under cohesion policy (ERDF, CF and ESF) to allow them to re-orient their funds rapidly. This will help to limit the spread and mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic by assisting national health care systems, small and medium sized enterprises and other vulnerable parts of our economies.

The changes in the regulatory framework will allow Member States to reorient funds rapidly to areas and sectors affected by the Coronavirus crisis. While focus will be primarily on sectors such as healthcare, small and medium enterprises and labour markets, related actions in the field of education and training, as well as the cultural sector, could also be supported. In line with the principle of shared management, it is up to the Member States to identify crisis priorities and refocus structural funding.

The cohesion policy funds (ERDF, CF and ESF) are managed in each Member State through their Managing Authorities. The programming of ERDF and ESF, the subsequent organisations of calls for funding, as well as applications for funding made via the relevant Managing Authorities.

National culture authorities should contact their respective Managing Authorities at national or regional level to discuss their requests and organise the funding calls for the response to COVID-19, when possible. The initiative also includes a 100% financing rate by the EU for measures to fight the crisis, so Member States do not have to frontload money.

Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE)

The aim of this support package is to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It shall provide up to €100 billion of financial assistance to Member States to help workers keep their incomes and help businesses stay afloat across the EU.

These loans will assist Member States to cope with sudden increases in public expenditure to preserve employment. Specifically, they will help Member States to cover two types of costs:

  1. those directly related to the creation or extension of national short-time work schemes,
  2. costs for other similar measures they have put in place for the self-employed as a response to the current coronavirus pandemic.

More concretely, SURE will support short-time work schemes and similar measures to help Member States protect jobs, employees and self-employed people against the risk of dismissal and loss of income. Firms will be able to temporarily reduce the hours of employees or suspend work altogether, with income support provided by the State for the hours not worked. The self-employed are not forgotten. They will receive income replacement for the current emergency.

Protecting small and medium-sized businesses

The Commission announced that an estimated €8 billion is available to provide immediate financial relief to small and medium-sized businesses across the EU. The Commission has unlocked €1 billion from the European Fund for Strategic Investments to serve as guarantees to the European Investment Fund in incentivising local banks and other lenders to provide liquidity to at least 100,000 European small and medium enterprises.

European Guarantee Fund

European Finance Ministers approved the establishment of a European Guarantee Fund of €25 billion that will support up to €200 billion of financing for companies, with a special focus on SMEs. EU Member States will fund the €25 billion guarantee fund pro rata to their shareholding in the EIB and/or other institutions. Thanks to the guarantee, the EIB Group will be able to provide existing products to local banks and other financial intermediaries, who are in close contact with businesses in all Member States and can unlock financing to the real economy, without risking financial instability.

Overview of policy measures against the coronavirus in the Member States

The Directorate-General for Economic and Social Affairs of the European Commission provides an overview of measures announced or taken in the Member States against the spread and impact of COVID-19. The policy measures enumerated include the following categories

  • expenditures measures
  • tax measures, sectorial, regional, or measures other than fiscal
  • any other measures

Find out more about these policy measures in the overview document.

Summary of EU and Member States measures to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural and creative sectors

The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, as part of the work of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, has started gathering information since the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, about specific national and European measures put in place on the national level in order to support cultural and creative sectors. This work is continued under the German Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Erasmus+ programme: extraordinary calls for culture and creativity

Following the revision of the Erasmus+ 2020 Annual Work Programme, the European Commission launched two new calls on 25 August 2020. They each provide €100 million to respond to the educational challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of these calls, the call for ‘partnerships for creativity’, will support projects in the fields of youth, school education and adult education. The call aims to develop skills and competences that encourage creativity and boost quality, innovation and recognition of youth work.

The deadline to apply is 29 October 2020. Interested organisations should contact the Erasmus+ National Agency in their country.

Tourism and transport

On 13 May 2020, the Commission presented a “Tourism and Transport“ package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions. The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.

Many European regions and cities rely heavily on cultural tourism. Technology has helped to reinvent cultural tourism during this pandemic by opening new opportunities for creative expression and by expanding audiences. Coastal, maritime and inland waterway tourism, as well as rural tourism, is present in many EU regions and is creating innovative, localised tourism offers for off-season business and recreation opportunities. New opportunities arise to discover hidden or forgotten natural and cultural gems closer to home, and taste locally produced products. The proposed European Year of Rail 2021 could focus on this specific travel mode to promote intra-EU tourism.

The Commission, in cooperation with Member States, will call for pledges to launch patronage voucher systems and will set up an online platform to link the pledgers with suppliers in the tourism sector.

From June 2020, Europeana, the European platform for Digital Cultural Heritage, further developed its tourism angle showcasing European cultural jewels and hidden gems. The companion web-app Cultural gems of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission will launch a citizen ambassador’s campaign in the second half of the year to support proximity tourism. In cooperation with the Member States, the Commission will continue previous efforts to support information sharing and encourage Europeans to discover the diversity of landscapes, cultures and experiences in Europe, including the European Capitals of Smart Tourism and the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN).

The Commission also promoted a social media campaign on sustainable cultural tourism, “Europe’s culture – close to you”. It run all summer to promote the rediscovery of Europe’s natural and cultural treasures in a safe and sustainable way, under the hashtag #EuropeForCulture. Citizens were also encouraged to take part in the online competition by sharing pictures and description of the cultural destinations close to home that they visited during summer.

Platforms for knowledge sharing in relation to the COVID-19 impact on the cultural and creative sectors

As announced by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel in the April video conference of EU ministers of culture and media, the Commission set up two platforms to help share challenges and solutions at the EU level in relation to the COVID-19 impact on the cultural and creative sectors.

The platform for EU Member States, launched 24 April, allows the representatives of EU culture ministries to exchange good practices.

The second platform, Creatives Unite, launched 5 May, helps people in the cultural and creative sectors share information and solutions more easily. It gives access in one single space to the multitude of existing resources and numerous relevant networks and organisations as well as offers a curated space to co-create and upload contributions towards finding solutions together. The platform is within the framework of the Creative FLIP Pilot project co-funded by the European Union.

Music Moves Europe

In the context of the 2019 Preparatory action on music, the Commission extended deadlines to the end of April 2020 for two calls for proposals in the fields of music education and co-creation. It also launched one call for tenders on music export in July 2020 which was re-focused to address the new situation brought by the Coronavirus crisis.

The Commission re-programmed the €2.5 million EUR available under the Preparatory action 2020 to help the sector become more sustainable after the crisis. The respective call for proposals is still open (deadline for application: 30 October 2020).

European Capitals of Culture

Rijeka and Galway 2020, this year’s European Capitals of Culture, are severely hit by the coronavirus crisis. Both had to postpone or cancel all events since March 2020. The pandemic has also caused great uncertainty around almost every area of preparation for the 2021 European Capitals of Culture.

Against this background, the European Commission proposes to give Rijeka and Galway the possibility to have their title year prolonged until 30 April 2021. This will postpone the three European Capitals of Culture 2021 to 2022 (Novi Sad, Serbia) and 2023 (Timisoara, Romania, and Elefsina, Greece).

The proposal is now with to the European Parliament and the Council for consideration and final adoption.

Creative Europe programme measures

The European Commission has adapted the Creative Europe programme to the new realities that the coronavirus outbreak has imposed.Together with the European Education and Culture Executive Agency, the Commission under the responsibility of Commissioners Mariya Gabriel and Thierry Breton is applying the maximum flexibility it can, in the implementation of the programme, within the limits of the applicable legal framework.

This flexibility for beneficiaries includes all actions supported by the programme.

Reinforcing links with Member States, Creative Europe Desks, Networks and Platforms

Creative Europe relies on the strong relationship with its stakeholders, and the Creative Europe Desks, established in the Member States, form a very important part of this network.

We keep informing Creative Europe Desks and involved stakeholders about the guidance put in place including through dedicated virtual meetings.

Cooperation projects to assist the sectors most in need

With an overall sum of EUR 48,5 million, the 2020 Cooperation projects call is the most substantial part of the Creative Europe Culture sub-programme. The call was launched in November 2019 and the evaluation of it has accelerated to take account of the pandemic. Out of the 380 eligible proposals, 20 larger scale and 93 smaller scale cooperation projects were selected for funding and a first substantial part of the budget is reaching the sector via the pre-financing instalments. Projects will last up to four years.

These cooperation projects are implemented by all kinds of organisations from the cultural sector, giving much needed support to artists, organisations and creative professionals involved. With a clear European dimension, these projects are efficiently complementing the emergency measures taken at national level.

Support scheme for the cross-border dimension of performing arts works

The COVID-19 crisis has shed a different light on the support scheme for the cross-border distribution of performing arts works (theatre, dance, circus and street arts) developed under the Work Programme 2020. Two issues have gained an acute relevance: the impact of mobility on the environment and the role of digital culture.

Hence, measures will be proposed to mitigate the sector’s carbon footprint. At the same time, they will include a forward-looking reflection on the longer-term impact the circulation experience may have. Live recording and streaming of the supported performances will be another way to ensure sustainability and a broader outreach through future viewing experiences online.

The call for tenders with a budget of €2.5 million was published on 19 June 2020 with a deadline on 31 July. The evaluation is being finalised. The winning tenderer should start the activity in November 2020 so that funds can reach the performing art companies, venues and festivals as of spring 2021.

Additional funding for the Translation scheme

Confinement and closures of book fairs and bookshops are having a big impact on the publishing sector.

The Commission decided to increase the budget of the 2020 call for the translation of European books under Creative Europe by €1M from €3.6M to €4.6M. The deadline of the call was extended to 28 May and the selection process accelerated.  As a result, 74 projects by European publishers were selected. Together they will translate and promote more than 1,120 books from 40 different European countries so the diversity of European literature can be available to all citizens including those living in non-urban and less central regions.

#CreativeEuropeAtHome Campaign

Many activities carried out under the Creative Europe programme cannot take place as planned due to the measures imposed by governments to contain the spread of the virus.

Beneficiaries of the Creative Europe programme are asked to showcase their art work online. The aim is to highlight great online cultural activities throughout the Creative Europe community – available to culture lovers currently stuck at home.

Based on this idea the European Commission launched the social media campaign #CreativeEuropeAtHome to promote the rich work beneficiaries of the Creative Europe programme are showing online to their audiences.

MEDIA sub-programme

Under the responsibility of Commissioner Breton, special measures for cinemas are foreseen in the context of MEDIA support to the Europa Cinemas network.. The call for proposals EACEA/24/2019 has been adapted with a €5 million supplementary allocation of funds. This additional budget will support activities supporting cinema that have been most impacted by the covid-19 crisis and related to innovative marketing strategies.

The ongoing grant agreement with Europa Cinema for activities carried out in 2020 has been amended in order to pay an additional pre-financing of around € 6.2 million. This will allow the network to advance part of the grant that cinemas will receive after the end of action period.

Report: European Cultural and Creative Cities in COVID-19 times

The European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a study on “European Cultural and Creative Cities in COVID-19 times”. Using cultural jobs statistics from Eurostat and the JRC’s Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor, the report identifies highly vulnerable cultural jobs and creative cities.

Increased flexibility for the CCS Guarantee Facility

The Commission, together with the European Investment Fund, have identified a set of adaptations to the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility (CCS GF) to allow for more flexibility in repayments of loans, to give more security to the financial institutions and to continue the build-up of portfolio of loans. Those modifications should make CCS GF more flexible and adapted to response to the current crisis.