2015-2018 Work Plan for Culture

by K.M.

Earlier this month, the new Work Plan for Culture was released. Since my PhD is on the main working method of the one that’s just ending (2011-2014), I have been curious to see what the new one contains. So please let me indulge and offer some quick thoughts on the new one.

The Work Plans are adopted by the Council and carried out by the Member States and the Commission. The plans set out overarching policy priority areas for the time period. Crucially, these policy priorities link to wider goals encompassed in the European Agenda for Culture and Europe 2020.

This time around we have four as opposed to six priority areas:
A) accessible and inclusive culture
B) cultural heritage
C) creative economy and innovation
D) cultural diversity, cultural diplomacy (EU in external relations), and mobility

The first thing that struck me after reading this was the absence of intercultural dialogue. Although it is mentioned in sub-priority D3, it is in the form of stock-taking and a study in 2016 on the illegal trafficking of cultural objects. It seems it has been taken off the political agenda, or rather fallen in terms of priority.

I’m also intrigued by priority D and how these three have been put together. In 2011-2014, each of these was its own priority (the first having been combined with intercultural dialogue and accessible and inclusive culture). It seems a bit random to have these together as they are quite different areas.

The principles that underpin the setting of the priorities include, this year, a closer tie with the work of the Council’s rotating presidencies. The emphasis on economic wording is quite strong, with words like synergies, evidence-based policy, and added value. Two OMCs focus explicitly on economic matters, one on access to finance and the other on identifying “innovative measures to promote entrepreneurship and new business models in the cultural and creative sectors.”  I also noticed the absence of the cultural and creative “industries,” having been replaced with “sectors.”

There is noticeably more focus on digital technology, with an OMC group on policies and strategies for digital access to culture as well as a specific mentions in the sustainable cultural tourism OMC on the digitization of content and services and in the OMC on improving the circulation of European films. The digital context is mentioned again in the Commission’s stock taking activities regarding the UNESCO convention on cultural expression.

The working methods listed are:

  • the Open Method of Coordination (main working method)
  • informal meetings of ministries of culture officials
  • ad hoc expert groups /thematic seminars
  • stock-taking meetings (Commission)
  • conferences, studies, peer learning initiatives

I think the OMC topics are slightly more targeted and specific, but the way the groups are organized and function, as well as their outputs (a best practice manuals for policy makers and cultural practitioners) remains the same.

It would also seem to me that the Commission is trying to further formalize its activities with the stock-taking meetings.

My final thought is that I hope the results of the working methods — minutes of discussions, reports, working documents, etc. — continue to be placed in the public domain and disseminated as widely as possible, not hidden behind closed doors. I’m thinking particularly here of informal meetings, expert groups, seminars, and conferences. It’s vital that as much information as possible is circulated and discussed in order to keep the dialogue going.