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Investing in people, culture and education is key for the future of Europe  

​Cities and regions reflect Europe's cultural diversity and are best placed to turn Europe's cultural heritage into a strategic asset, local and regional leaders highlighted in a debate with Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. The Commissioner, who took the floor at the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session, recalled that strengthening a common European identity and promoting social and economic cohesion are among the objectives of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and conditions to build the Europe of tomorrow.

In the European Commission's proposal for EU's next Multiannual Financial Framework , existing actions supporting European culture and creativity will be integrated into a new Creative Europe Programme with a slight budget increase. The Commission also proposes to double the budget for Erasmus+ and reinforce the European Solidarity Corps. These instruments are included in the new Investing in People, Social Cohesion & Values cluster with a total budget of €139.5 billion.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz , President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "Culture and education must contribute to reinforcing the sentiment of belonging to the EU and cultural heritage must be considered as a strategic resource for Europe. Investing more in soft power, including youth, education and culture, is a guarantee for more solidarity and the best antidote against the risk of disintegration of our common European identity. These priorities need to be reflected across the different programmes of the next EU budget."

Tibor Navracsics , Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, confirmed that the European Commission will present next week new proposals on the European Education Area and on Early Child Education and Care, as well as a renewed EU Youth Strategy and a new European Agenda for Culture to build on the momentum created by the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

"We want to harness the power of culture to drive economic growth, job creation and social development. Promoting our shared values is key, as is strengthening our local, national and European identities. Young people are the strongest force in building bridges. We need to do more to bring them together, to enable them to learn about each other, about our diversity, but also about what we have in common. The Commission has done its part to ensure sufficient financial support for education, youth and culture policies in the next EU budget", Commissioner Navracsics said.

Luca Jahier , newly-elected President of the European Economic and Social Committee, said: "The EU and its Member States must allow culture, which is the foundation and cement of our European identity, to come to the fore as a unifying and mobilising instrument in Europe. Now is the time to firmly place culture and cultural policies at the heart of the European political agenda, to invest in the sector and support its different actors, to include culture as a tool of soft power in Europe's external relations and to promote culture as the Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development."

Petra Kammerevert (DE/S&D), Chair of the CULT Committee of the European Parliament, said: "I am firmly convinced that an economically determined 'European project' alone is not sufficient for citizens to identify with the European Union. It is therefore of great importance that European policy makers at all levels give more importance to culture and education policy. Europe needs culture - in 2018 and beyond - as it is our common culture that makes us Europeans."

Following the debate, the assembly of EU's cities and regions adopted two opinions related to this topic. Tanya Hristova (BG/EPP), Mayor of Gabrovo and rapporteur on Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture , said: "While education remains a national competence, we strongly recommend to promote language learning from an early age and to familiarise learners with a common European cultural heritage, European history and the processes of European integration. It is also urgent to look into regional disparities and economic and social consequences that arise from skills gaps and mismatches in the EU."

Cultural heritage is a strategic resource for more cohesive and sustainable regions in the EU, according to Babette Winter (DE/PES), State Secretary for Europe and Culture in the Thuringia State Chancellery and rapporteur for an opinion requested by the Bulgarian presidency of the Council. "Cultural heritage embodies the EU's motto of 'united in diversity' and has a considerable impact on tourism, jobs and growth. It contributes to social cohesion and quality of life and offers development opportunities for regions affected by demographic change and depopulation. We call on EU regions to take this on board in their smart specialisation strategies and insist that culture and cultural heritage should be better incorporated in the priorities of the EU's future budget", Ms Winter said.


Lauri Ouvien

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