The Commission today published EU guidelines to ensure that activities in the cultural and creative sectors are safely resumed across the EU. Now that the epidemiological situation is improving and vaccination campaigns are going faster and faster, Member States are gradually reopening cultural venues and activities. The aim of the guidelines published today is to provide a coordinated approach in line with specific national, regional and local conditions.
They are expected to guide the design and implementation of measures and protocols in EU countries to cover both safe reopening and sustainable recovery in the cultural and creative sectors.
According to Vice President for the Promotion of our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas: “Culture has helped people cope with the consequences of confinement and social alienation. It is now up to us to accompany the sectors on their way to reopening. We need coordinated and tailor-made efforts across the EU so that the world of culture can resume its activities safely and gradually and be better prepared for future crises. The cultural and creative sectors are strong European assets and are important for the sustainable recovery of Europe, the increased resilience of European society and, more generally, our European way of life.”
For her part, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “The cultural and creative sectors and industries have paid a heavy price since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the crisis has highlighted their importance to our society and economy. With the increase in the vaccination rate, restrictions are gradually being lifted, also in the field of culture. The aim of these guidelines is to facilitate the coordination of Member States’ measures at EU level. Simultaneously, a safe reopening of cultural environments must be accompanied by several measures to ensure the sustainable recovery and resilience of the entire sector.”
The EU guidelines are based on the expertise of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and exchanges with the Health Security Committee. They also take into account the different epidemiological situations and developments in each Member State. They provide the indicators and criteria (such as viral circulation, vaccination rate, use of protective measures and testing and contact tracing) to be taken into account when planning the resumption of certain activities.
More specifically, the guidelines recommend the following measures and protocols:
- The removal of restrictions should be strategic and gradual, with a limited number of participants at the beginning to allow for an assessment of the epidemiological situation.
- Cultural centers should have a preparedness plan detailing protocols for action in the event that COVID-19 cases are detected.
- Specific information or specific training courses should be provided to all cultural center personnel to minimize the risk of infection.
- Vaccination of people working in cultural settings should be encouraged to ensure both their protection and that of the general public.
- Participants may be required to present a negative COVID-19 test, proof of vaccination, or a COVID-19 diagnostic test in order to gain access to the facility. Depending on the local circulation of virus variants, this requirement could be extended to those who are fully vaccinated.
- Centers should ensure that they have contact details of the public, in case they are needed for contact tracing.
- The center should establish specific protective measures: maintain social distancing whenever possible, have clean and accessible hand-washing facilities, provide adequate ventilation, and clean surfaces frequently. The use of face masks by attendees is an important complementary measure.
The reopening of cultural centers must be accompanied by several actions aimed at ensuring the sustainable recovery of the entire sector. Actions at the EU level complement those taken by the Member States and the cultural and creative sectors.
Member States are invited to take full advantage of the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism to invest significantly in the sectors and improve their capacity to adapt to new trends and emerge from the crisis.
The Commission has significantly increased its financial support to the cultural and creative sectors, with almost €2.5 billion from Creative Europe and nearly €2 billion from Horizon Europe dedicated to cultural, creative and inclusive projects from 2021 to 2027.
In autumn 2021, the Commission will publish an online guide to EU funding for culture, encompassing all existing EU funds available to Member States and the sector.
The extensive restrictions, put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the health of the public, have resulted in severe economic difficulties for a large part of the sectors, especially for venue-based and visitor-based activities as confirmed by the Single Market Annual Report 2021. For example, EU cinema operators report a 70% drop in box office sales in 2020, concert halls report a 76% drop in attendance (64% of revenues) and museums have lost up to 75-80% of their revenues (in popular tourist regions). The crisis is expected to have a lasting impact on the entire value chain and the collection of authors’ and performers’ royalties is also expected to be affected.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Commission has adopted several measures to address the consequences of the pandemic on the cultural and creative sectors, as well as complementing and supporting the actions of the Member States. The measures range from granting greater flexibility in implementing existing programs and creating the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to additional funding under Creative Europe and Erasmus+ in 2020. The Commission, in cooperation with the sector, also launched in May 2020 a specific platform, Creatives Unite, to help artists, performers and others working in the cultural and creative sectors share information and initiatives to address the coronavirus crisis and exchange ideas for a sustainable reopening.