“There has been a delay on the part of the Left to deal with issues relating to the neoliberal challenges to culture,” said GUE/NGL MEP Curzio Maltese introducing the afternoon session on the new challenges to culture.

Although he welcomed the fact that education had contributed to most people knowing how to read and write, thus giving widespread access to culture, he said “there is a need to reform welfare systems, particularly essential pillars such as education and culture”.

With the current undermining of education and public health systems, there is a “risk of backsliding,” he warned.

In addition to the economic right-wing powers dominating culture, MEP Maltese said: “The Left and trade unions have focused on pouring money into sectors such as the car industry without success, whereas the cultural sector, which is innovative and fast-expanding, has not benefitted from these funds”.

The cultural sector offers the possibility not only to build new alternatives, but new jobs. “The Left needs to work on these alternatives in order to create new jobs for the future.”

“Budget cutbacks do not represent member states' economic difficulties but a major threat to undermine what culture is,” said Greek MEP Georgios Katrougalos.

In Greece, culture was one of the first victims of the crisis, it now benefits from only 0.25% of the budget; and unemployment in the artistic professions stands at 80%.

Katrougalos continued: “There are now only 13 concert halls in Athens, all of them belonging to private institutions and foundations.

“If we consider this as the new norm, then we surrender the very foundations of European culture to neoliberal values. This commercialisation of culture is reinforcing inequalities. In addition to the conventional duality between 'high” culture and 'popular' culture, a further duality is being introduced in popular culture itself.

“The Left should speak the language of rights. In Europe we still believe that culture and education are rights, not as consumers but as citizens. Culture is a public common good that should not be considered a commodity. It is also an important political and ideological battlefield pitting the Left against neoliberal forces.”

GUE/NGL Press Contacts in Florence:
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
Gianfranco Battistini +32 475 64 66 28
European United Left / Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group

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