EU values & identities: What's next for the European identities and cultures in times of mobility?

This chat room discussed issues related to the existence of a common European identity and how we relate to the values connected to the European Union in the current political landscape. A main focus of the discussion was the role of Culture in determining our common European identities but also in changing the tone of the narrative about Europe.

There was a common understanding among participants that each European has more than one identity (local, national, European etc.) and these are not competing among each other. However, there is a concern over the conflicts surfacing in relation to the ongoing refugee crisis and the lack of functional solutions at EU level in response to these issues.

The discussion highlighted the democratic values on which the EU was founded, noting that such consensus does not necessarily exist among all political leaders in today's Europe. The rise of the far right groups in national parliaments across Europe is a threat to the fundamental values of the EU and yet, once again, the mechanisms for preventing their rise have so far been inadequate. European bodies and transnational European networks need to engage in articulating the grand narrative of a Europe of multivoicedness, of diversity, of differences, on the ability to agree to disagree, on opening for more solutions to similar challenges in respect of local / regional differences and opportunities. Culture plays a vital role in carrying this narrative.

In the context of forthcoming EP elections, it was discussed that not all voters have the same understanding of the EU and values associated with it (sometimes even within the same EP party).Partially, this is due to the inequality in opportunities for traveling and cooperating across the borders. People living in areas with fewer opportunities, including rural areas, might not have the same understanding of the benefits united Europe provides. In the context of the Brexit vote and the doubts raised about the EU project, European politicians need to work on making people hope that better and more democratic future is possible.

Sustainable Future: How do we ensure sustainable human & natural ecosystems?

This chat room brought many questions regarding sustainability to the surface and specifically addressed the role of the cultural sector in a sustainable future for Europe. Culture, after all, is the fourth pillar in achieving Sustainable Development Goals, from Decent Work to Responsible Production and Consumption. 

It was agreed that the turn to sustainable development begins with the transformation of our current financial systems of exploitation. This extends to the cultural sector and its own struggles with sustainable funding and mobility of artists and art works. The issue of greenwashing also surfaced, mentioning the fact that funding often comes from companies that invest in one aspect of sustainable development to deflect from other violations of SDGs.

Noting the lack of a common narrative between sectors and stakeholders towards our sustainable future, it was suggested that an important role of the cultural sector could be to create this narrative through various artistic expressions.

It was concluded that a major change can probably only achieved from a political, economic or protest movement and that would lead to changing the basis of our habits and of our economic models. However taxation of multinational companies and other tax avoiders could be the first step to finance a development that could lead to a sustainable future for all of us.

Labour & Working Conditions: Should we work forever, for free, for love?

This chat room discussed the future of employment and the change of conditions in the workplace, particularly in light of the rise of independent and freelance work. It was argued that a common EU instrument is necessary for assisting in the transition to the future of work as well as an improved welfare and social rights system to support freelance workers. 

The role of the cultural sector in redetermining the value of work was also explored, considering that artists and cultural workers have been at the avant-garde for a precariousness now reaching other sectors. Many steps need to be taken at a policy level in order for this to happen in a sector that is currently propped up by unpaid work. Labour laws are needed to ensure professional artists have access to fair wages and EU legislation should take into account the different realities in the north and south of Europe. There are creative skills that should be promoted and supported, but the diffuse concept  of 'creativity' is frequently meant from one side as a 'resilient way' to cope with unstable working conditions; from the other as a solution to revitalized cities and neighbourhood.

In terms of progress being made, the EU’s ‘European Pillar of Social Rights’ was mentioned, which put forward new legislative initiatives for better working conditions, and made some progress on more sustainable economic policies. The new EU mobility funding scheme ( is also a very important step in recognising and supporting the working conditions of artists. These are significant changes, although not sufficient, and the EU must go much further – to a new ‘social contract’ that offers all citizens a fairer and more equal society with real opportunities for all.

Education & Research: Do we have the education and research systems we need?

This discussion focused on the state of our education and research systems, exploring the role of informal education, the future of the Erasmus+ programme and the future of education in general, considering the need for better synergies between education and culture. 

The need for recognition and validation of different forms of learning and skills developed through different kinds of learning was highlighted and the role of the cultural sector as a platform for non formal education was noted.

A major point of discussion concerned the Erasmus+ programme and how to make it less ‘elitist’ to accompany more disadvantaged learners. International collaboration and partnership in cultural projects, starting in the pre-schools, to be continued in primary- and secondary-school, should be a self-evident part in the education of Europeans. For all of the things Erasmus+ could achieve, it will need a bigger budget, and more awareness of the importance of cultural educational exchange.

The need to modernise education systems, in light of what we have learned about the development of children and young people was also addressed. Art education within school curricula is crucial, and should include a diversity of cultural and artistic forms, not limited to traditional areas. Educational goals should be connected to the three different 'spaces': personal development, societal development and economic development, and more in balance than we have nowadays in education. It was also noted that there should be more education on Europe and the functioning of the EU in schools, as people are not conscious of the opportunities and benefits brought by the EU.

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