|The European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 – background info|
This new European Year, following the 2008 Year of Intercultural Dialogue, aims to « support the efforts of the Member States to promote creativity, through lifelong learning, as a driver for innovation and as a key factor for the development of personal, occupational, entrepreneurial and social competences and the well-being of all individuals in society».
If we take into consideration the current world social and economic context, defined by important investments in research and development, the rise of new technologies and the so-called knowledge society as well as the objectives of the European Lisbon Strategy, the European Commission has proposed that 2009 be dedicated to Creativity and Innovation (read the European Commission’s proposal).
According to the Commission, this year will aim to promote creativity mainly via education and training to ensure personal, professional, entrepreneurial and social skills. 13 objectives have been put forward amongst which figure “stimulating aesthetic sensitivity”, “promoting closer links between arts, business, schools and universities”, “promoting design as a creative activity which significantly contributes to innovation” and “highlighting openness to cultural diversity as a means of fostering intercultural communication and artistic cross-fertilisation”. The link to the arts is underscored and public, yet culture is not part of the programs and domains covered by the initiative as originally proposed by the Commission (entreprise, information society, research, social cohesion and rural development but not culture).
Following the Commission’s proposal, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee gave their own views (read the opinion of the Committee of the Regions here and the EESC’s opinion here). Both approved the proposal while stating some concerns and reservations. The Committee of the Regions wants to see towns and European regions more actively implicated, and also insisted on the importance of education for the promotion of innovation, and particularly the importance of cultural and artistic education. The Economic and Social Committee regretted the speed with which this Year was set up, suspecting that the same haste will be apparent in the Year’s implementation.
During the Parliamentary session of October, the Commission proposal was adopted at first reading in the Culture and Education Committee after a number of amendments (read the Batzeli report here). The rapporteur insisted on the cultural dimension of the Commission’s proposal, added culture and communication into the support measures, and underlined the Year as a continuation of the 2008 Year of Intercultural Dialogue as regards its respect for the fundamental values of the EU. The EP Culture Committee also underlined that a thematic year must not simply be a communication campaign but actually help to shape a longer term policy framework for the Union by making the citizen as well as the political, economic and social actors more aware of the issues.
Although it is quite in line with the current strategic European interests (Lisbon strategy, support for creative industries, etc.) the Commission’s proposal has a number of evident weaknesses. As the EESC suggested it is happening rather too quickly leaving a suspicion that the Year is not the result of a collective decision but more of a default choice. In reality, a theme for 2010 was already on the table in 2007 ‘The fight against poverty’ – and youth organisations have already asked that 2011 be dedicated to Volunteering. Usually two years are taken to prepare these thematic commitments and it would appear that 2009 has had a bare 7 months of reflection. The proposal is also weak in various areas: unlike preceding Years, only the main lines of action have been sketched out, the proposal remains very general and there is a risk that it will become merely a label to be slapped on to a range of projects with no guiding line. Finally, the finance issue seems worrying. The 2008 year of Intercultural Dialogue had its own budget line but the activities for 2009 have no budget commitment and will be financed mainly through existing activities in a areas such as education, culture business policy, information society, research and rural development. The Commission has not been sufficiently clear in determining the level of involvement of each Programme for the year as yet.
To go to the website of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, click here.