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Commissioner defends 'art for art's sake' at Edinburgh festival

  • The commission is hoping to push through its pricy 'Creative Europe' package at a time of deep cuts (Photo: Didier Misson)

National governments and the EU should maintain state funding for the arts rather than leave it in the hands of the market said EU culture commissioner Androulla Vassiliou on Monday (13 August).

Vassiliou was speaking at the start of the first International Culture Summit in Edinburgh.

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The two-day event at the Scottish parliament, which brings together politicians and artists against the backdrop of the annual Edinburgh festival, comes as governments across Europe are making deep cuts in arts spending.

In a press statement released by the EU executive, she emphasised the need for public funding for culture, saying "culture represents a public good in which every citizen has a stake and I believe that the case for public intervention is as strong today as it has ever been: the markets alone cannot deliver all that a civilised society needs."

Opening the event, Scottish culture minister Fiona Hyslop she the arts and creative sector is "key to economic and indeed social recovery, rather than a distraction from it."

Pointing to the widely acclaimed Olympic opening ceremony created by UK film-maker Danny Boyle, Hyslop said the display had had a "dramatic impact" but was also part of "an enduring movement, creating international sporting connections."

"I hope this summit can leave a similar lasting legacy of increased cultural dialogue between nations," she added.

The devolved Scottish government has cut culture spending by 5 percent since 2010 compared with cuts of 30 percent for the rest of the UK.

However, the European Commission is planning to hike its own culture budget to €1.8 billion for the next EU budgetary cycle in 2014-2020 - an increase of nearly 40 percent.

The ambitious "Creative Europe" proposal, which was tabled by the EU executive at the end of 2011, is currently under discussion by the European Parliament and EU countries' ministers, with a final deal expected early next year.

Europe's arts and creative sector accounts for 4.5 percent of GDP across the EU as well as nearly 4 percent of jobs.

Brussels estimates that up to 300,000 artists would receive funding if EU countries approve the scheme.

Vassiliou said the culture blueprint is a bid by the EU executive to "move away from supporting isolated events and projects towards designing a coherent strategy."

Some governments, led by Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, are opposed to the budget increase and are especially critical of plans to create a new EU loan facility specifically for arts businesses.

Vassiliou defended the loan facility, which would see €210 million from the EU budget leveraged to raise up to €1 billion.

The fund would "improve the access to credit of small and medium enterprises by providing risk protection to banks," she said, adding that it would "use the public money of the EU budget to leverage private funding."

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