Culture is a necessity not a luxury, and needs our urgent support
The crisis arising from COVID 19 has wreaked havoc on so many economic sectors – hurting employees, employers, small businesses and people who are self employed. The cultural sector has been one of the hardest hit, as a sector which relies heavily on public participation and audiences. With cultural activities including events, live performances and exhibitions, either restricted or cancelled for more than 8 months, it is really a sector in crisis in Israel, but also in other parts of the world including Europe.
Many believe that culture is a luxury and not a social need or an economic necessity. I disagree with this view. Culture is a powerful tool to build bridges between people, notably between young and old and reinforces our common human experience regardless of background.
Culture creates long term relationship between peoples and nations, as can be seen in the longstanding cultural partnership that Israeli artists enjoy with European artists, and Israeli cultural institutions enjoy with European cultural institutions. Cultural activities represent countries on the world stage and are therefore an integral part of their international relations.
Culture matters to our economies. The economic benefits of cultural exchanges are too often ignored, although the statistics are clear. Cultural and creative industries represent around three percent of the world’s GDP and, in the EU alone, account for more than 7 million jobs. Culture makes a greater contribution to our economy than some traditional economic industries.
Understanding that importance, the European Union has included cultural industries in its economic COVID recovery plans. The EU stepped in to protect small and medium businesses and the self-employed which are prevalent in the cultural and creative sectors. EU Members States will be able to reorient their funds to sectors in crisis such as cultural sectors, and many have already set up funds for artists, non profits and cultural institutions, providing grants, tax breaks and loan guarantees. The EU’s major programmes - Erasmus+ and Creative Europe - have also been harnessed to support the sector, as well as many other measures.
It is now the time to show more solidarity with the cultural industries and sectors under threat of collapse. Cultural and creative sectors are an economic and societal asset In line with our priorities as the EU and as the EU Delegation to Israel, we are hosting and supporting on one the most important cultural events in Israel in 2020, called Loving Art, Making Art – European Edition. This is an action of our solidarity with artists, cultural operators and Israeli citizens during the COVID crisis.
It is also a showcase of the exceptional standards, and innovative and resilient spirit of those who are passionate about culture and the arts. Finally, it highlights that Israel has not greater partner for cultural cooperation than Europe. Our cultural and creative industries must be protected and saved from the impact of the corona crisis for the sake of our societies and our economies.
Emanuele Giaufret, EU Ambassador to Israel
Published in Hebrew in Globes on 12 November 2020