Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass and Agnieszka Widuto.
Culture plays a fundamental role in human life. It is also an essential source of identity, at local, regional, national and European levels, while making a significant contribution to the EU economy. EU cultural policy relates to cultural heritage, i.e. cultural sites and museums, but also to the cultural and creative sector, for instance the audiovisual and design sectors.
The EU supports culture through a variety of initiatives, including the European Capitals of Culture scheme. A number of EU programmes also offer funding for cultural projects, for instance the Creative Europe programme, Horizon Europe and New European Bauhaus. Several regional policy funds meanwhile provide support for cultural events, the regeneration of cultural sites, the preservation of cultural heritage, cultural tourism, and cultural and creative sector businesses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the cultural and creative sector, as repeated lockdowns saw the closure of cultural institutions and infrastructure. As one of the worst affected sectors of the economy, the EU included culture in its coronavirus response investment initiatives and the REACT-EU (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe) programme aimed at dealing with the consequences of the pandemic.
Local and regional authorities have a role to play in supporting cultural life and participation in their communities. Arts and cultural facilities are usually associated with urban centres, though they also have potential in non-urban areas, small towns and rural communities. The presence of cultural sites increases the attractiveness of a region, while well-developed cultural and creative sectors help to enhance the regional economy. Culture can also play an important role in the regeneration of disadvantaged and post-industrial areas. The European Parliament has called for increased support for culture as part of the post-pandemic recovery efforts. As Europe emerges from the crisis, culture can help to strengthen regional development.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Culture and regional development‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to policy podcast ‘Culture and regional development’ on YouTube.