25 January 2022

#TheYouthCreativeAcademy: Why is culture important?


Apart from defining our values, attitudes, beliefs, symbols and norms, providing behaviour patterns, culture has significant social and economic worth, improving the quality of life for both individuals and communities. Many areas, such as education, health, research, social policy, regional development, or foreign affairs, include key cultural elements. 

Moreover, culture increases understanding of self and others, providing an opportunity to effectively communicate across its boundaries. Cultural diversity enables bringing in various ideas, viewpoints, and competences, supporting  regional and global economic development.

Cultural policies in the EU

Culture is vital to the preservation of European ideals and values. The rich cultural legacy of Europe, as well as the vibrant cultural and creative sectors, reinforce European identity and foster a sense of belonging. Within Europe and around the world, culture encourages active citizenship, shared values, inclusivity, and intercultural conversation. It draws people together, including migrants/ refugees/ asylum seekers, and makes citizens feel like we're part of a community.

With this focus in mind, the New European Agenda for Culture was adopted on the 22 May 2018, which was the European Year of Cultural Heritage, implemented through the Work Plan for Culture (2019-2022). This document comes as a result of a shared interest of all Member States to fully benefit from the full potential of education and culture as an engine for jobs, economic growth, social fairness, active citizenship as well as a tool to experience European identity in all its diversity.

The agenda proposes three strategic objectives, with social, economic and external dimensions:

1. Social dimension - harnessing the power of culture and cultural diversity for social cohesion and well-being by:
  • Fostering the cultural capability 13 of all Europeans by making available a wide range of cultural activities and providing opportunities to participate actively
  • Encouraging the mobility of professionals in the cultural and creative sectors and remove obstacles to their mobility
  • Protecting and promoting Europe's cultural heritage as a shared resource, to raise awareness of our common history and values and reinforce a sense of common European identity
2. Economic dimension - supporting culture-based creativity in education and innovation, and for jobs and growth through:
  • Promoting the arts, culture and creative thinking in formal and non-formal education and training at all levels and in lifelong learning
  • Fostering favourable ecosystems for cultural and creative industries, promoting access to finance, innovation capacity, fair remuneration of authors and creators and cross-sectoral cooperation
  • Promoting the skills needed by cultural and creative sectors, including digital, entrepreneurial, traditional and specialised skills

3. External dimension - Strengthening international cultural relations through:
  • Supporting culture as an engine for sustainable social and economic development
  • Promoting culture and intercultural dialogue for peaceful inter-community relations
  • Reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage

Culture in the EU - A Legal Perspective

As mentioned in the Treaty of Lisbon, one of the main EU aims to ‘respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and […] ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced’ (Article 3 of the TEU).

The EU’s action in the field of culture supplements the cultural policy of the Member States, ‘carrying out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States’ (Article 6 of the TFEU). ‘The EU must contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore’ (Article 167 of the TFEU). Some of the areas in which EU encourages cooperation, know-how development, the exchange of good practices, as well as the dissemination of culture and history are: the preservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage, mobility among creative workers, non-commercial cultural exchanges and artistic and literary creation, including in the audiovisual sector.

EU Citizens’ voices on culture

According to the 2017 Eurobarometer on cultural heritage, ‘at least 8 out of 10 respondents think cultural heritage is not only important to them personally, but also to their community, region, country and the EU as a whole. A large majority take pride in cultural heritage, whether it’s in their own region or country, or in another EU country. More than 7 out of 10 also agree that cultural heritage can improve their quality of life. The survey also shows that 9 out of 10 think cultural heritage should be taught in schools. Three-quarters think that EU countries and the EU should allocate more resources to protecting Europe’s cultural heritage’.

The 2020 Eurobarometer on Values and Identities of European citizens shows that ‘an average of 81% of EU citizens are likely to agree that everyone should have the right to freedom of thought, expression and religion. Some differences exist among different Member States. Respondents in Denmark and Spain (both 92%), the Netherlands (91%), Cyprus (90%), Greece (89%), France (88%), Germany, Hungary and Estonia (all 86%) are more likely to favour such freedoms. On the other hand, less than seven in ten respondents in Romania (65%) and Italy (68%) support freedom of thought, expression and religion’.