Friday

23rd Jun 2017

Culture increasingly seen as path to economic growth

  • Dundee - another city that has focussed on culture as an economic force (Photo: Shahbaz Majeed)

With a little imagination and some creative interpretation of guidelines on how to spend EU aid, some cities and regions are pulling themselves up by the bootstraps and turning themselves into cultural - and money-making - hotspots.

Nantes is one of them. Twenty-odd years ago, the western French city had a huge industrial scar at its centre after the closure of its shipyard. The 15 hectare space on the Ile de Nantes was ugly, barren and a reminder of a busier past.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • An artist's 'photo marathon' of Nantes (Photo: Eric Montfort)

Today, it is an artistic centre. Art projects, festivals and shows have put the city on the cultural map and boosted outside investment. The creative industry employs 5,600 people - a 200 percent increase since 1982. Visitor numbers have shot up, from 140,000 in 2006 to 220,000 last year.

The city's authorities got around €54 million from the European Regional Development Fund. They spent around €9 million of it just on culture-related investment in the city.

Valentina Montalto of KEA - a consultancy specialised in culture - and co-author of a *report looking into the use of EU regional aid for cultural projects, says this reflects better appreciation by local authorities of the importance of creativity.

"What is happening in European regional policies is that there is better understanding of culture. There is much less culture for culture's sake but seeing it as a tool to promote activity and innovation," she said.

There are many examples. Dundee on the east coast of Scotland is another city that has set about transforming itself.

The starting blocks were the same as those of Nantes - a city in decline after a more prosperous industrial past. In the early 1990s, city developers started to focus on culture and creativity. Now the city accounts for 10 percent of the UK's digital entertainment industry. It is home to 17 games companies employing over 400 people.

Arnhem in the Netherlands has focused on turning itself into a city that designers not only want to come and study in but also to stay afterward, while Estonia's Tartu is busy establishing itself as a cultural hub by encouraging cultural entrepreneurship.

But, according to Montalto, even if some urban developers are enlightened about the role of culture as a force for economic growth, this does not mean that a profound change has taken place.

The proposed new rules for cohesion policy (a bag of EU funds for regional development) give a less prominent position to culture. It is not mentioned in the 11 'thematic areas' where the European Commission wants money to be spent - although it is mentioned in less important strategic guidelines for the spending of EU aid.

"Even if the current reference is limited to cultural heritage, compared to the new one, it's still better," says Montalto of the proposed changes.

Helga Truepel, a German Green MEP, says that the parliament's culture committee will try to use the report to influence negotiations on the next budget.

"It is not about abolishing the intrinsic values of culture but seeing that it is a new part of economic development. It's a cross-over between culture and economic policies," said Truepel.

"Cities that have invested in culture have had more economic success than those that invested only in cars and airports. In the knowledge society, a lot of innovation - when you put it in economic terms - depends on creativity."

Regional funding at stake as EU states battle over budget

The eurozone crisis is testing the EU's capacity for solidarity. This is spilling over into the budget talks where different ideological camps are battling. At heart is the future size and shape of regional funding.

Focus

Art to protest politics in Spanish town

In early 2012, Pablo Lag stood in front of an abandoned, half-constructed house in Alicante and kicked in the door. Inside, he began work on an art exhibition “to make people in the world know what is happening in Spain.”

Focus

Culture: 'A new wind is blowing in Europe'

Faced with falling ticket sales, cultural institutions in Europe should be looking both for ways to reach new audiences and keep existing audiences on board, according to the European Commission.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal
  2. US issues warrant for VW managers, German media say
  3. EU extends sanctions against Russia
  4. Merkel denies Franco-German deal on EU agencies
  5. Dutch PM: Turkey is upholding migration deal
  6. Britain to outline rights of UK-based EU citizens
  7. Tusk can 'imagine' the UK still remaining in EU
  8. Norway offers more blocks for Arctic oil exploration

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  2. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  3. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  4. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  5. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  6. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  7. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  8. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  11. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  12. European Social Services ConferenceDriving innovation in the social sector – 26-28 June

Latest News

  1. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  2. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  3. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit
  4. EU pressures firms to tackle online terrorism
  5. Lack of eligible candidates dogs EU relocation scheme
  6. Border management going virtual
  7. Tusk hints UK could stay in EU, if it wanted
  8. Merkel, Orban and the not quite closed Balkan route