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Coronavirus response

How the EU responds to the coronavirus outbreak in support of the cultural and creative sectors.


To complement and support Member States’ actions, the European Commission has taken a set of measures to tackle the consequences of the novel coronavirus outbreak on the cultural and creative sectors.

This page details both the horizontal measures and those related specifically to Creative Europe, the European Commission's programme to support the culture and audio-visual sectors.

EU guidelines on the safe resumption of activities in the cultural and creative sectors

On 29 June 2021, the Commission published EU guidelines to facilitate the safe resumption of activities in the cultural and creative sectors across the EU. The guidelines aim to provide a coordinated approach in line with the specific national, regional and local conditions. They are expected to guide the design and implementation of measures and protocols in EU countries and cover two key dimensions: the safe reopening of the cultural sectors and their sustainable recovery.

The guidelines are presented in the context of a gradual improvement in the public health situation in the EU and take into account the different epidemiological situations in the Member States. They provide the indicators and criteria (such as the viral circulation, the vaccination coverage, the use of protective measures, the use of tests and contact tracing) to be taken into account when planning the resumption of certain activities.

The guidelines are based on the expertise of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and exchanges with the Health Security Committee.

The Temporary Framework for state aid measures

The Temporary Framework for state aid measures to support the economy in the current Coronavirus crisis specifically refers to culture as a sector that is particularly hit.

This Framework enables Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under state aid rules to support the economy at this difficult time.

Member States can grant compensation to companies for damage suffered due to and directly caused by the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, Member States can grant financial support directly to consumers, for example for cancelled services or tickets that are not reimbursed by the operators concerned.

The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative

The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and CRII Plus have made €37 billion available to Member States under cohesion policy (ERDF, CF and ESF) to allow them to re-orient their funds rapidly. This helps to limit the spread and mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic by assisting national health care systems, small and medium sized enterprises and other vulnerable parts of our economies.

The changes in the regulatory framework allow Member States to reorient funds rapidly to areas and sectors affected by the Coronavirus crisis. While focus is primarily on sectors such as healthcare, small and medium enterprises and labour markets, related actions in the field of education and training, as well as the cultural sector, could also be supported. In line with the principle of shared management, it is up to the Member States to identify crisis priorities and refocus structural funding.

The cohesion policy funds (ERDF, CF and ESF) are managed in each Member State through their Managing Authorities. The programming of ERDF and ESF, the subsequent organisations of calls for funding, as well as applications for funding made via the relevant Managing Authorities.

National culture authorities should contact their respective Managing Authorities at national or regional level to discuss their requests and organise the funding calls for the response to COVID-19, when possible. The initiative also includes a 100% financing rate by the EU for measures to fight the crisis, so Member States do not have to frontload money.

Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE)

The aim of this support package is to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It shall provide up to €100 billion of financial assistance to Member States to help workers keep their incomes and help businesses stay afloat across the EU.

These loans assist Member States to cope with sudden increases in public expenditure to preserve employment. Specifically, they help Member States to cover two types of costs:

  1. those directly related to the creation or extension of national short-time work schemes,
  2. costs for other similar measures they have put in place for the self-employed as a response to the current coronavirus pandemic.

More concretely, SURE supports short-time work schemes and similar measures to help Member States protect jobs, employees and self-employed people against the risk of dismissal and loss of income. Firms can temporarily reduce the hours of employees or suspend work altogether, with income support provided by the State for the hours not worked. The self-employed are not forgotten and can benefit from income replacement for the current emergency.

Protecting small and medium-sized businesses

The Commission announced an estimated €8 billion to provide immediate financial relief to small and medium-sized businesses across the EU. The Commission unlocked €1 billion from the European Fund for Strategic Investments to serve as guarantees to the European Investment Fund in incentivising local banks and other lenders to provide liquidity to at least 100,000 European small and medium enterprises.

European Guarantee Fund

European Finance Ministers approved the establishment of a European Guarantee Fund of €25 billion to respond with up to €200 billion of financing for companies, with a special focus on SMEs. EU Member States fund the €25 billion guarantee fund pro rata to their shareholding in the EIB and/or other institutions. Thanks to the guarantee, the EIB Group is able to provide existing products to local banks and other financial intermediaries, who are in close contact with businesses in all Member States and can unlock financing to the real economy, without risking financial instability.

Overview of policy measures against the coronavirus in the Member States

The Directorate-General for Economic and Social Affairs of the European Commission provides an overview of measures announced or taken in the Member States against the spread and impact of COVID-19. The policy measures enumerated include the following categories

  • expenditures measures
  • tax measures, sectorial, regional, or measures other than fiscal
  • any other measures

Find out more about these policy measures in the overview document.

Erasmus+ programme: extraordinary calls for culture and creativity

Following the revision of the Erasmus+ 2020 Annual Work Programme, the European Commission launched two calls providing €100 million to respond to the educational challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of these calls, the call for ‘partnerships for creativity’, aimed at supporting projects in the fields of youth, school education and adult education, with the goal of developing skills and competences that encourage creativity and boost quality, innovation and recognition of youth work.

With a reinforced budget of some €26 billion, the new Erasmus+ 2021-2027 offers more mobility and cooperation opportunities. Interested organisations or individuals should explore the actions available and contact the Erasmus+ National Agency in their country.

Tourism and transport

On 13 May 2020, the Commission presented a “Tourism and Transport“ package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions. The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.

Many European regions and cities rely heavily on cultural tourism. Technology has helped to reinvent cultural tourism during this pandemic by opening new opportunities for creative expression and by expanding audiences. Coastal, maritime and inland waterway tourism, as well as rural tourism, is present in many EU regions and is creating innovative, localised tourism offers for off-season business and recreation opportunities. New opportunities arise to discover hidden or forgotten natural and cultural gems closer to home, and taste locally produced products. The European Year of Rail 2021 has focused on this specific travel mode to promote intra-EU tourism.

From June 2020, Europeana, the European platform for Digital Cultural Heritage, further developed its tourism angle showcasing European cultural jewels and hidden gems. The companion web-app Cultural gems of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission launched a citizen ambassador’s campaign in the second half of the year to support proximity tourism. In cooperation with the Member States, the Commission continues previous efforts to support information sharing and encourage Europeans to discover the diversity of landscapes, cultures and experiences in Europe, including the European Capitals of Smart Tourism and the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN).

The Commission also promoted a social media campaign on sustainable cultural tourism, “Europe’s culture – close to you”. It run to promote the rediscovery of Europe’s natural and cultural treasures in a safe and sustainable way, under the hashtag #EuropeForCulture. Citizens were also encouraged to take part in the online competition by sharing pictures and description of the cultural destinations close to home that they visited during summer.

Platforms for knowledge sharing in relation to the COVID-19 impact on the cultural and creative sectors

As announced by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel in the April video conference of EU ministers of culture and media, the Commission set up two platforms to help share challenges and solutions at the EU level in relation to the COVID-19 impact on the cultural and creative sectors.

The platform for EU Member States allows the representatives of EU culture ministries to exchange good practices.

The second platform, Creatives Unite helps people in the cultural and creative sectors share information and solutions more easily. It gives access in one single space to the multitude of existing resources and numerous relevant networks and organisations as well as offers a curated space to co-create and upload contributions towards finding solutions together. The platform is within the framework of the Creative FLIP Pilot project co-funded by the European Union.

Music Moves Europe

In the context of the 2018-2020 Preparatory action on music, the Commission funded over 60 projects and five studies to strengthen the resilience and the competitiveness of the music sector with an overall budget of €7 million. Those initiatives not only address topics in the field of training, distribution, music export, data or health and well-being of musicians but also the new situation brought by the pandemic crisis.

The Commission re-programmed  2.5 million EUR to help the sector become more sustainable after the crisis. The new European Project  MusicAIRE started in October 2021 to develop and implement grants to third parties with the aim to help the music ecosystem emerge from the COVID-19 crisis in a green, digital, just and resilient way.

Creative Europe programme

Along 2020, the Creative Europe programme adapted to the situation in order to help artists, organisations who are beneficiaries, and other participants in the programme to overcome the difficulties and uncertainties. The Commission together with the Executive Agency - EACEA applied the maximum flexibility it could in the implementation of the programme, within the limits of the applicable legal framework. Projects needing it have been adapted or amended in order to continue their activities.

Since 2021, a new programme has been launched and new calls are being submitted. Should the current situation require it, and therefore needs action from our side, we will keep you informed on this same page of the measures we would take in order to facilitate the continuity of the selected projects and actions that we co-finance.