The politico-economic structure widely recognized as the European Union appears to experience its worst period in terms of socio-political stability, cultural assimilation and integration. Even the staunchest defenders of the European idea present very few facts to underpin the argument that Europe is a strong and unified political family. However, there are still intentions to support one of the heaviest industries such as culture, but the question rising is whether these actions will result in a more unified Europe, or they will simply glamorize an already inefficient situation.
During November 2012, European Commission has introduced the “Creative Europe” program as the cornerstone of its cultural policy framework for the years 2014-2020. The program will offer 1.8 billion euros and in comparison with its predecessors, the available amount of budget will be augmented by more than 35%. Additionally, it will provide expertise and support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) as well as it will try to improve the cultural exchange of experiences, the development of new business models within the sector and the broadening of target groups and new audiences.
In keeping with its standard policy of non-interference in solving semantic issues such as an efficient cross-cultural communication and a pragmatic integration, European Commission considered that economic boost would solve all the problems related to culture. There are a lot of accusations that European authorities have a bit of a blind spot in comprehending that economic development does not necessarily mean a productive cultural policy. For this reason “Creative Europe” has become the bone of contention within the professionals of the cultural industry even before its application.
The crucial issues about who will reap the rewards of the program’s implementation and which is going to be the background of these rewards are themes which are still under negotiation. Do we solely speak about economic profit or there is also an intention for cultural assimilation? Given that the term “cultural” is judged according to subjective criteria, how are we going to assess what is culturally coherent?
Since the explosive issue of the fiscal crisis is still on, any public discourse about funding cultural industry will inevitably affect the public understanding of the programme as a booster for civilization. We should not forget that cultural industry as an area of economy is still widely considered elitist and for many not as important as a bank system. It is therefore predictable that when societies are struggling to survive due to austerity, they will definitely not subscribe to the fact that the Commission affords money for events and venues that they might not be well-received by the local communities.
“Creative Europe” still has an overabundance of paradoxical elements within its synthesis. Museums, heritage sites and cultural professionals, are experiencing lay-offs, severe cuts in their salaries and drastic curtailing in funds. Additionally in the debt-stricken countries, the difficulty within this sector is yielded on the high levels of unemployment within the young professionals. Moreover, most of the scientists who are related to cultural studies (museum studies, history of art, archaeology, etc), are unable to apply what they have been taught in a cultural institution. It should be also underscored that European Union is currently reducing salaries and asking for cuts in personnel in the cultural field, but it aims at providing millions of euros in a couple of years time to alter the abovementioned situation. In addition, it expects to strengthen the intercultural links within Europe by investing, when investing — inefficient or problematic — was the root cause of the crisis, and for many it is the reason of the economic destabilization.
Nobody can deny that “Creative Europe” is a step ahead and that it will manage to re-stabilize an industry that had been significantly wounded by austerity. Additionally it will improve the image of Europe towards the society, since the Union is accused of double standards in considering culture as crucially important but allowing it to become the scapegoat when the economy is in trouble. However, the blazing issue is what margins will this programme bridge and how well it will sustain a real integration.
To sum up, “Creative Europe” can be productive only when Europe will become creative. Strict austerity, monumental political lapses and dichotomies within an area that defined global civilization cannot be erased solely by generous funding. Museums and heritage have not yet managed to repudiate allegations of being for the few and not for the many, and Europe has not yet reached integration so to apply programs in the interest of social cohesion. European societies are isolated within a political family which appears not to comprehend that austerity generated strong cultural margins and redefined the European cultural agenda. So it’s time for the European Union to evaluate the pragmatic and profound problems of its identity not solely by investing money, but simply by understanding the collective character of its structure.