EU countries ponder massive increase in arts spending
By Benjamin Fox
The European Commission's plan to launch the world's largest ever cultural funding programme is to be tested in coming weeks as EU states ponder if they want arts spending to go up 37 percent in the next EU budget.
The 'Creative Europe' proposal, published in late November, would see €1.8 billion from the EU budget allocated for visual and performing arts, film, music, literature and architecture in the 2014-2020 cycle. Brussels estimates that up to 300,000 artists would receive funding if EU countries approve the scheme.
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The proposed increase comes at a time when governments across the EU are cutting national arts budgets in a bid to reduce deficits.
The size of the increase may also prove controversial at a time when EU governments are divided on whether to agree to any real rise in the EU budget.
In an explanatory paper sent to government ministers and MEPs, the commission pointed to economic research showing that the cultural and creative sector contributes 4.5 percent to the EU economy and employs 3.8 percent of Europe's workforce.
The proposal received a mixed response from cultural commentators who welcomed the promise of additional funding but said the focus should not be purely on its economic payback.
Dexter Dalwood, a nominee for the Turner Prize in 2010, told The Art Newspaper: "If the goal is to create social cohesion, isn't it going to favour obvious visible targets like classical music, the performing arts and public art?"
He doubted whether the funding structure would see money "trickle down to the most needy creative people."
The commission detailed plans to provide funding of €910 million from 2014 onward for the film industry.
Elsewhere, the European Capitals of Culture programme is to get €490 million, with Guimaraes in Portugal and Maribor in Slovenia to be capitals of culture for 2012.
The EU paper also looks at ways to overhaul funding for the cultural business sector.
In a move to shift funding away from conventional government grants towards private investment and loans, it outlines plans to ease access to financial backing for small businesses.
Noting that "cultural sector SMEs [small-and-medium-sized enterprises] have an estimated €2.8 billion to €4.8 billion shortfall" in funding, the commission called for a new financial guarantee facility enabling them to access up to €1 billion in bank loans.
The Creative Europe proposal will be scrutinised by national governments and the European Parliament as part of overall deal-making on the next EU budget.
Meanwhile, Culture Action Europe, the pan-EU lobby group on arts spending, has said its 'We Are More' campaign - which calls for more EU culture spending - has collected 22,000 signatures.
The group hopes to reach 100,000 when it presents its campaign manifesto to EU culture ministers in May.