For the average citizen, European politics and policies are not easy to understand. Nonetheless, Brussels' decisions affect many aspects of our daily lives. Including cultural heritage. To figure out who is who and who does what within the bureaucratic maze of European politics, EHT interviews several insiders. In the this episode of Who's Who in Culture & Heritage, you get the opportunity to meet Marjolein Cremer from the European Cultural Foundation.
Marjolein Cremer works as a Senior Advocacy Officer at the European Cultural Foundation (ECF), a foundation set up in 1954 to promote a European sentiment and democratic solidarity between the people of Europe. Cremer’s job revolves around supporting cultural professionals to work together on a European level.
Something she did for a long time for several cultural (heritage) organisations in the Netherlands. Now she advocates for culture and heritage on a European level. ”I’m convinced that culture can add inclusion and solidarity to European society and economy”, she pleads. ”Things we need now more than ever.”
To start things off, can you tell us something about what ECF tries to accomplish for cultural heritage? And what is your role in the organisation?
First of all, ECF does not only try to represent cultural heritage but the entire cultural field in Europe. We are a foundation located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We are mostly financed by Dutch lottery money and partner with public and private funders on a number of projects. Part of our job is providing grants and other forms of support to cultural organisations and initiatives. Apart from that, we are also an advocacy organisation influencing public policy in favour of culture.
For example, I work with several cultural organisations in the Europa Platform to contribute to a strong European culture agenda. And together with Europa Nostra and Culture Action Europe, my colleagues and I are working on the campaign for a Cultural Deal for Europe. This campaign is specifically designed to support the culture, creative and heritage sector in Europe during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
Since the European Union makes European policies and laws, how can you influence their decisions?
Well, you have to drink a lot of coffee with many people, haha! But on a more serious note, it’s vital to reach out to the proper officials. You have to convince key figures at ministries or within the EU about the importance of culture. Or provide evidence how culture can be beneficial for economic and social policies.
My work is not only about changing existing policies. ECF also tries to influence future plans and raise awareness about future challenges. We want to show officials what culture needs and can offer financially in the upcoming years. By talking with many different cultural organisations, for example in the Europa Platform I mentioned, I try to translate the sector’s needs into legislation, policies or programmes.
A lot of the EU’s information is accessible via the internet for free, but you need to know where to find it.
Citizens often feel the EU is too complicated to understand. Or they don’t know where to find information. As someone who has been working in this field for a while, what’s your view on that?
I tend to agree that Europe’s language is super bureaucratic. However, the EU is very transparent when it comes to providing information. Perhaps even better than some member states. A lot of information is accessible via the internet for free, but you need to know where to find it. Nonetheless, there is still a lot to win in making the institute more inclusive and accessible for outsiders.
But what do citizens notice from, for example, your work at ECF?
Recently I worked on an EU funded project called Cultural and Creative Spaces and Cities. Here European experts and policy makers worked together with local stakeholders and organisations to solve local issues in so-called Urban Labs. This project is spread across 21 countries
For example, Urban Lab Helsinki led by Kaapeli – a former Cable Factory and the largest cultural centre in Finland – aimed to activate citizens to shift their role from audience, to co-creators. Kaapeli investigated public property vs. city property, commons property strategies and creative activities. Via these projects, we hope to contribute to a European cultural infrastructure and connect European ideas with local practice. Early this year, we released our policy report with recommendations.
Which developments do you see emerging in the European culture and heritage sector in recent years? What themes get the most attention?
Right now, there is a lot of attention directed towards the European Green Deal. Now the cultural sector needs to ask itself: ”How can we contribute to solving the climate crisis?” Hopefully, the New European Bauhaus movement can connect culture, heritage and sustainability in a meaningful way.
The COVID-19 crisis will only create more division between the so-called have and have–not’s of Europe
A European sense of belonging
Another theme would be the creation of a European sense of belonging. As autocratic regimes, polarisation and inequality grow across Europe, it’s vital to promote diversity, solidarity and democracy. The COVID-19 crisis will only create more division between the so-called have and have–not’s of Europe. We need to bridge these growing social divides.
I think national governments need to work together quicker and better. Not only with each other but also with the European Parliament and Commission as well. Heritage and culture can play a vital part in the creation of a European public space. ECF actively contributes to such a space as well. How can citizens experience Europe better? I think when you start building that European sentiment, everyone in Europe would benefit.
If you want to learn more about ECF’s and Marjolein’s work, you can click here to visit their website.