How can we cope with social distancing? How can we protect ourselves, but also others? How can we protect ourselves and our families without neglecting others? Over the last few days, everyone – governments included – have had to ask themselves these questions: are we going to act together or will it be every man for himself when things get worse?
The coronavirus emergency is a stress test for the European community. Whether we choose the path of selfishness or solidarity will also determine the future of Europe. The fight against the virus will show whether another dangerous evil will once more spread in Europe: the disease of national selfishness that has already taken millions of victims in our continent’s history.
We are painfully aware of the fact that the pandemic, which is a challenge for us all, makes no distinctions of citizenship or nationality. The virus is everyone’s invisible enemy. If we need to shut down borders and minimise physical contact in order to stem its spread, this means that in Europe we must promote and strengthen social dialogue and cohesion with even greater determination.
Now that we have to give up moving freely for a certain period of time to protect our health, the importance of social freedoms and the void left behind when we are deprived of community life become palpably clear.
In this emergency, a culture of solidarity is the best antidote. A community based on mutual support will help us – closer to home as well as in the European community – to overcome this difficult period.
We can learn from history and act accordingly, just as our political actions are currently being informed by scientific studies. We need to overcome the crisis together and to do so properly. And the strength of our international arts and education policy can make a substantial contribution by helping us to come together at this time of need.
For many years, we have been operating across borders in Europe. We have strengthened and consolidated cultural cooperation and scientific diplomacy. We carry out research together on environmental change and the scarcity of resources, we make music together, we learn and live together.
In our countries we have rightly taken immediate steps to organise financial aid, also for those working in the arts and cultural institutions, whose survival is at stake. This will ensure that we are able to enjoy art and culture together after the crisis. Even if today we predict that this crisis will leave deep scars, we are nevertheless convinced that in the future the curtains will once more rise in opera houses and theatres, that people will once more flock to cinemas, and that youngsters will be able to go to festivals, to dance and hug each other.
In the meantime, we are witnessing a digital transformation and the impact of digital technologies on global society, in which ever-increasing numbers of people interact in innovative ways. It is also becoming clear that culture can offer solutions. These new digital platforms are much more than just an aid to survival in an emergency. They offer us the opportunity to access new cultural and educational channels across borders as well as to help create a European public consciousness. This is why we have agreed to reflect together on the development and support of digital formats in international cultural policy. To this end, we will invite those working in the arts and creative professions in our countries to take part in a virtual discussion forum, scheduled for the second half of the year.
The many creative ideas emerging at the heart of our societies and all over Europe, especially also in cyberspace, are encouraging, and show us how we can overcome this period. The values of our civil society lead us to develop digital spaces for the benefit of all, as we turn away from selfishness and embrace greater solidarity. This attitude must now serve as a guideline for all member states. This is how the European ideal will also be able to overcome the crisis and emerge stronger. We know it will be a difficult path.
We are still unable to imagine the impact on our economy. We still do not know how many of us will lose loved ones, people we know or are acquainted with, with whom we share this Earth. Filled with sadness and pain, we commemorate together those who have lost their lives as a result of the virus. What would become of us in a time like this without books, films and music in which to find refuge and support? What would our societies be without those who created them without artists? We are therefore all the more determined to protect our most precious asset: our faith in solidarity and the power of culture.
- Dario Franceschini (Minister of Heritage, Arts and Tourism, Italy),
- Michelle Müntefering (Minister of State at the Foreign Office for Cultural Foreign Policy, Germany),
- José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes (Minister of Culture and Sport, Spain)