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Address to the Temple Bar Cultural Trust

Culture, Minister Lucinda Creighton, Speech, Europe, 2011

The Relationship between Ireland and EU through its Cultural and Creative Industries

When the process of closer European integration began, cultural policy did not have an official role. However Jean Monnet himself seemed to recognise this omission when he said “If I could start again, I would start with culture”.

Cultural policy first became an official part of EU policy under the Maastricht Treaty in which the preamble referred to the “the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe”. Today’s Treaty on the Function of the European Union states in Article 167 that the “Union shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore”. This provides a firm Treaty basis for the EU’s active engagement in the culture sphere.

The difficulty of talking about Culture is that it is a profoundly personal experience and, at the same time, an industry where quite a considerable number of people earn a living.

The Programme for Government recognises the huge economic importance of culture and, in particular, its importance as part of our tourism offering.

But I would like to talk more about Culture and its importance in enhancing the Europe which we are part off.  In a world which is more and more globalised and where the importance of the West, as we know it, is in steep decline, I believe that we need to have a better understanding of what it is that binds us together.  For obvious reasons, a lot of recent conversations have been about banks, regulation, bailout and interest rates.  But we have to believe that we will get over this and that, now more than ever, we need to be part of a thriving and united Europe.  And at the end of the day what allows us understand each other is to understand each other’s culture.   

There is clearly a difference of language which in one sense may  be a barrier.  On the other hand it is a gift.  Learning another language is intensely frustrating but it is also a window into a world both very similar and very different.

Even if we are not in a position to learn or to practice another language we can understand each other much better – not by learning more about each other’s financial regulatory system – but about understanding attitudes to food, learning the stories parents tell children at bed time and even by looking at public spaces.  These are all elements of our varied cultures which we can learn from and enjoy.  And the more we know about them the easier it is to understand other peoples’ historical experiences. 

We – thankfully – have never been touched by the terrible destruction of the World War I or World War II.  Nor have we experienced totalitarian government. We should remember that most of Europe has, either in this generation or the last.  Again these experiences which have so marked lives and have left such an impression on society are not expressed in legislation or economic planning, but are to be understood and experienced in public spaces, novels, music and poetry.  If we can understand the books written by other Europeans we can understand much better what motivates them and how like each other we really are.  I stress that I don’t mean exclusively so-called “high culture”.  

Cultural events can help us understand ourselves better.  The recent exhibition in IMMA called “The Moderns” provided a completely different view of how Ireland looked during the second and third quarter of the 20th century.  For a visitor from another European country it would have given a completely different understanding of how Ireland related to the rest of Europe during this period, even though the popular understanding is that this was a closed and inward looking time.  Those kinds of events, in this country or indeed any other, give an understanding and insight which is not available any other way.

Culture is important not only for Europe as it is commonly understood, but also for the New Ireland and the new Europe, which is now multi-cultural.  It is through the culture of each community, in its widest sense, that we really understand what is being brought to our shores and the riches which are now available to us which would not otherwise be the case.

Ireland has benefited substantially from the supports available from the EU to the arts, film and culture sectors, through successive EU Culture and Media Support Programmes such as Culture 2007-2013 and the Capitals of Culture programme. This has enabled Irish talent to enjoy international visibility and has enhanced Ireland’s international reputation as a cultural hub. 

Ireland’s cultural infrastructure has also benefited from substantial capital investment under successive EU structural funding programmes. In the audiovisual sector under the MEDIA 2007 Programme €2.9m in funding was awarded to Ireland in 2007 and 2008.

The European Agenda on Culture foresees a substantial role for culture in a variety of EU policy areas – including its contribution to the enhancement of Europe’s global competitiveness. The cultural sector contributed around 2.6% to the EU GDP in 2003, with growth significantly higher than that of the economy in general between 1999 and 2003. These industries and the creativity which they generate are an essential asset for Europe's economy and competitiveness in a context of globalisation.

The Commission’s communication on a “European agenda for culture in a globalizing world” noted that “the role of culture in supporting and fostering creativity and innovation must be explored and promoted. Creativity is the basis for social and technological innovation, and therefore an important driver of growth, competitiveness and jobs in the EU”. This strong political recognition at EU level of the vital role played by cultural and creative industries in improving competitiveness is echoed in the EU’s policies for and growth and job creation.

This time last year the Heads of States and Governments of EU Member States launched the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The strategy sets out concrete targets to be achieved within the next decade in areas such as employment, education, energy use and innovation in order to overcome the impact of the financial crisis and put Europe back on track for economic growth. The role that cultural and creative industries can play in achieving the Europe 2020 targets, particularly that of employment, should not be underestimated.

We think of our cultural industries as small-scale enterprises. This may be true of individual projects, but combined, our cultural and creative industries, and the image of Ireland that these help to generate abroad, constitute a valuable asset which, nurtured and used wisely, will play a significant role in our economic recovery.  The arts and culture sectors are increasingly important for the development of tourism. Irish art and culture is now winning over audiences in and beyond the Anglophone world, for instance in China, India and Japan. And as knowledge and awareness of Irish culture abroad helps to encourage more visitors to come to Ireland, the increase in visitor numbers creates new opportunities for the development of cultural and creative industries in Ireland. It creates a virtuous circle.

Let me elaborate. In 2002, the World Tourism Organisation established that 37% of all tourism was cultural in nature and this trend was set to grow at 15% per annum. According to the European Commission, up to half of tourist motivations in Europe are ‘cultural’ in nature. Consequently Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland have prioritised ‘sightseers and culture-seekers’ as a key target market for incoming visitors to Ireland.

Cultural and creative industies have been a particular focus of EU attention, culminating with the publication in April 2010 of a Green Paper on how to create an environment in which this sector can fulfil its potential to contribute to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The contribution of culture to local and regional development is also increasingly recognised. Preparation of the future cohesion policy, to run from 2014, will draw lessons from projects and studies to design instruments which release the full potential of the cultural sphere, and particularly that of the creative industries.

Looking to the future, Ireland will hold its next Presidency of the EU during the first six months of 2013.  Many of you will recall that Ireland’s last Presidency was just seven years ago in 2004.  One of the main successes of that Presidency was the enlargement of the EU.  In today’s enlarged Union of 27 states, Ireland needs to work harder than ever before to make its voice heard; the Presidency will present us with an opportunity to do this.

Our next Presidency in 2013 will be Ireland’s seventh and will coincide with the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s entry into the European Union in 1973.  Our successful management of the EU agenda during previous Presidencies contributed greatly to shaping positive international perceptions about the state during the first decades of our membership.  Ireland showed that a small Member State could run efficient, impartial and effective Presidencies and successfully manage the Union’s demanding agenda. 

Ireland’s image abroad has been dented in recent years, but efficiently managing the Presidency in 2013 can, again, help strengthen Ireland’s reputation at home and abroad as a credible and capable partner. 

The Presidency also presents an opportunity to define and progress important policies across a broad range of areas that can have a positive impact for citizens cross the EU for years to come, including seeking ways of effectively supporting creative and cultural innovation and industry.  I also hope that cultural and creative industries will play a major role in defining Ireland’s image abroad and demonstrating Ireland’s can-do attitude, its dynamism, innovation and creativity to a wide audience when the spotlight is on us during the Presidency. 

But I also wish to work with you to see how the Presidency can strengthen this growing and increasingly important sector. 

Ireland’s Presidencies have contributed previously to shaping our international image abroad during the first 40 years of our EU membership.  But times have changed, and Ireland must look to the future.  I look forward to developing a closer partnership with you so that together we can contribute to defining a new and vibrant image of Ireland abroad as we look towards the next decades of our membership.