1. President’s Message

Chapter 1

President’s Message

Culture is the Software to Help Build a Better Europe

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the increasing gaps in society between the haves and the have-nots painfully visible. It has also highlighted the need for space for those who feel unseen and unheard and who, for whatever reason, want to participate in society in a different way. Dialogue that takes all perspectives across society seriously is the basis of an inclusive, resilient and sustainable society.

These are great ambitions that transcend organisations and even generations. They go beyond our own lifetime – requiring us to learn to think and act beyond ourselves. That is a precondition for solutions that require systemic change.

To achieve this, we need to go beyond collaboration and networking and build trust. We need to move from being partners to becoming allies who work as equal change-makers to tackle the issues of shared concern. We need to not only talk about solidarity but we need to create solidarity through action. Investing in arts and culture in times like these is an investment in our shared future based on solidarity.

Artists and cultural figures are drivers of change. They give hope in times of anxiety. They provide resistance against demagogues and lies. They keep the connection across polarised lines. They imagine a better Europe beyond borders, spheres of influence, division and simplistic talk of growth rates. They can help save Europe from nostalgia for 20th century nationalism. Investing in arts and culture in times like these is an investment in our shared future.

Cultural actors and artists create spaces that push us to imagine new ideas and possibilities. They are well aware of the controversy and discomfort they create by challenging the status quo, but they are driven by their independence of mind. They set an example for everyone to reflect, act and engage as citizens so they can feel the responsibility to shape society.

For the past 67 years, the European Cultural Foundation has been a firm advocate of a Europe grounded in culture. Moreover, it has supported those who, even in the most complex and difficult socio-political contexts, strive to express their own vision of society and of Europe.

The European Cultural Foundation has always envisioned a Europe where citizens feel they belong and somewhere they can be proud of – a place where they can live, express themselves, work and dream freely, in diversity, inclusivity and harmony.

Culture is the software to help build a better Europe – inclusive, resilient and sustainable. It motivates us to see what we can achieve if we work together creatively, with focus and urgency. In this, we should be as imaginative as possible and take inspiration from the former Polish leader Lech Walesa, who said, “The sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience”.

HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands

President, European Cultural Foundation

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