Culture sector an "untapped" resource, says commission
By Benjamin Fox
The creative industries and culture sector are a “largely untapped resource” in the European economy, according to a paper released on Wednesday (26 September) by the European Commission.
“The contribution that cultural and creative sectors can bring to social and economic development in the EU is still not fully recognised," says the paper.
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The cultural and creative sectors employ up to 8.5m people and generate between 3.3 percent and 4.5 percent of the bloc's GDP.
Meanwhile, figures from the EU's statistics agency Eurostat have indicated that the job market in the creative industries have been far more resilient than across the EU as a whole, particularly for 16-25 year olds, the age group with the highest unemployment rate.
Despite this, the sector faces a number of challenges, chiefly, adapting to a digitised economy and difficulty accessing financial support.
The EU is attempting a series of reforms to the digital economy with the Commission-backed Europeana project providing a single on-line platform to access books, museums and archives. Meanwhile, Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier unveiled the long-awaited directive on collective copyright management in July and draft rules on private copying are also expected imminently.
Launching the paper, EU Culture Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said that the continent's culture and creative sectors were “not only essential for cultural diversity; they also contribute a great deal to social and economic development in our member states and regions.” She added that the sectors projected a “dynamic image of an attractive and creative Europe.”
Ministers and MEPs are currently discussing the Commission's ambitious Creative Europe which aims to increase EU culture spending to €1.8 billion in the next seven year budget cycle starting in 2014, an increase of 37 percent.
The centre-piece in the proposal is a dedicated EU financial facility which would see €210m from the EU budget leveraged to create a €1bn fund to provide easy access to bank loans for small businesses in the culture sector.
The commission strategy comes against the backdrop of spending cuts on culture and the arts across most member states.
However, with a group of member states, led by Germany, the UK and the Netherlands, anxious to freeze any increases in EU spending and hostile towards the facility, parliament sources on the Culture committee have indicated that either the budget hike or financial facility will have to be sacrificed to reach agreement on the programme.