Why social cohesion is vital for Europe
Emerging from a range of crises, Europe faces growing social inequalities, diverse populations, populism, radicalisation and other threats. Supporting the role of culture is a vital aspect of building social cohesion. Culture is essential for avoiding conflicts and for conflict resolution. It is an ideal means of communicating across language barriers, empowering people and facilitating social cohesion, including among refugees, migrants and host populations. It prevents marginalisation of people based on their cultural identity, socio-economic status, age and other factors.
Cultural participation also improves health and well-being. Living close to places related to Europe's cultural heritage can improve quality of life, while cultural access is one of the most important determinants of psychological well-being.
The role of the Commission
The Commission aims to enhance social cohesion by promoting culture and cultural life and by strengthening access to culture through civic engagement, promoting cultural initiatives and growing a sense of individual empowerment and democratic consciousness.
The Commission’s policies and initiatives in this area give particular attention to the interests and needs of disadvantaged groups, such as, for instance, young people, older generations, individuals with disabilities, people from a migrant or refugee background and people living in poverty or material deprivation.
To achieve the best possible results from cohesion and well-being practices, cooperation is encouraged with other areas, such as education, social care, healthcare, science and technology as well as regional and urban development.
EU support for culture and social cohesion
The Commission has led on a variety of initiatives harnessing the power of culture and cultural diversity for social cohesion and well-being. Since 2008, the Commission has identified social cohesion as one of the priority areas of its cultural policy. The European year for intercultural dialogue (2008) and the Platform for Intercultural Europe (2008-2013) can be highlighted in this respect.
The New European Agenda for Culture, adopted in 2018, has further strengthened the social dimension of the cultural policy. Currently, the Creative Europe programme is the main source of funding for projects in this area.
In 2017-2019, the Commission also convened an Open Method of Coordination EU Member States’ expert group which produced guidelines for policy makers and cultural institutions on the theme ‘From social inclusion to social cohesion: the role of culture policy’ (2019).
In 2016-2017, another Open Method of Coordination group was convened to discuss the integration of migrants and refugees in societies through the arts and culture. Its report includes 23 recommendations focusing on three themes: empowerment through intercultural dialogue and the arts, inter-sectoral and partnership working and evaluation of intercultural dialogue objectives and projects.
Another important document introducing the mission of public cultural institutions to promote social cohesion is the Report on the Role of Public Arts and Cultural Institutions in the Promotion of Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue (2012-2014). The idea of the report is to help dedicated public cultural institutions, artists and communities as well as policymakers to harness the potential of culture for the benefit of all.
Dialogue with civil society
Social inclusion is also on the agenda of the EU’s structured dialogue with civil society. Under the Voices of Culture, discussions took place with stakeholders on relevant themes:
- Promoting intercultural dialogue and bringing communities together through culture in shared public spaces (2016)
- The role of culture in promoting the inclusion or refugees and migrants (2016)
- Social inclusion: partnering with other sectors (2017-2018)
- The inclusion of refugees and migrants through culture (2019)
- The role of culture in non-urban areas of the EU (2019)
What are the next steps?
The Creative Europe programme holds regular open calls for activities within the EU and beyond. These activities can help promote intercultural dialogue, openness towards other cultures as well as, for instance, assist with the integration of refugees and migrants.
A new preparatory action proposed by the European Parliament for 2020 shall facilitate the exchange of experience and success stories at EU level, related to the role of culture for well-being at local level. The action will be implemented by the European Commission. Find more information in the 2020 annual work programme [pdf] for the implementation of Pilot Projects and Preparatory Actions in the area of education, youth, sport and culture.