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To address the crisis and develop a proper strategy for recovery, IMPALA published a set of first wave recommendations in its Crisis Plan and Recovery Roadmap, in March and May 2020, followed by second wave recommendations in November. Below is a summary of the EU's response to the crisis.


General EU measures

-The European Commission has set up a page dedicated to the EU's response to the coronavirus outbreak in support of the cultural and creative sectors. 

-As the start of the crisis in March 2020, the EU formed a task force made up of 9 commissioners, chaired by Commissioner Janez Lenarčič in his role as European Emergency Response Coordinator, to support Member States to address the crisis by providing recommendations, ensuring coordination, and preventing the enactment of contradictory measures. 

-On 18th March 2020, the European Central Bank launched a €750bn Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme to support liquidity and financing conditions to households, businesses and banks.

-On 20th March 2020, the Commission also proposed to activate the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact to allow Member States to pursue a fiscal policy facilitating the implementation of all measures necessary to deal with the crisis like targeted relief measures for firms and workers.

-The scope of the Solidarity Fund was broadened to include major public health crises. Starting from the 1st of April 2020, this allowed the hardest hit Member States to get access to financial support of up to EUR 800 million in 2020. The Solidarity Fund is also open to accession countries (Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania and Turkey).

-As part of the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, which came into force on 1st April 2020, the EU redirected €37bn from the EU budget resources (particularly from EU structural and investment funds) to member states, with some going to support SMEs and short-term employment schemes.

-On 2nd April 2020, the European Commission proposed SURE, a new instrument for temporary support to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency, which is designed to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It will provide financial assistance in the form of loans granted on favourable terms from the EU to member states, of up to €100bn in total.

-On 6th April 2020 the European Investment Fund announced EUR 1 billion were being made available as a guarantee to help generate €8bn of working capital for around 100,000 small and medium sized businesses and small mid-caps. This was intended to boost existing financial instruments and encourage national banks to offer bridging finance to SMEs under general EU schemes such as COSME (for SMEs), Horizon 2020 and the EU’s fund for Strategic Investment.

-On 9th April 2020, the Eurogroup (EU member states who share the Euro as currency) adopted a €500bn support package. Finance ministers took stock of actions taken so far (listed further below), and outlined a coordinated economic response – Among other things: 

  • As of 9 April, member States’ discretionary fiscal measures amounted to 3% of EU GDP, and liquidity support consisting of public guarantee schemes and deferred tax payments, were estimated at 16% of EU GDP.  

  • The Eurogroup welcomed the initiative of the European Investment Bank (EIB) to create a pan-European guarantee fund of €25bn, which could support €200bn of financing for companies with a focus on SMEs.

  • It was announced that work would start on a Recovery Fund to prepare and support the recovery, providing funding through the EU budget to programmes designed to kick-start the economy in line with European priorities and ensuring EU solidarity with the most affected member states.

  • It was also confirmed that the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the EU’s 2021-2027 budget, would be adapted to help member states to effectively address the fallout of the coronavirus crisis and support the economic recovery.


-On 28th May 2020, The European Commission proposed changes for the EU’s social funding programmes to tackle social and employment challenges in the post-crisis era. The Commission proposed to increase the annual funding available for the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which provides support for workers made redundant by a single company with over 500 employees, to €386 million from 2021 onwards.


-A Temporary Framework for State aid measures, which was initially in place until December 2020, was extended (in October 2020) until June 2021 to offer more flexibility for member states to support their economy. The cultural sector is covered, alongside tourism and transport. This means member states have the freedom they need to come up with their own crisis plans including subsidising wages, suspending social security contributions, VAT payments etc.

-On 29 June 2021, the European commission released some guidelines to help coordinate the safe reopening of the cultural and creative sectors across Europe.

Neighbouring countries

-As part of its response to the coronavirus outbreak, on 30th March 2020 the European Commission announced the reallocation of €374 million to help the socio-economic recovery of the Western Balkans. The Commission also announced it would redirect funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance to help the recovery in the region, and would work closely with relevant international and EU financing institutions to provide a coordinated response to support the economy, including SMEs.

- On 15th May, the European Parliament approved €3 billion in loans to help EU neighbours and partner countries deal with the fallout of COVID-19. The loans, which will be given on highly favourable terms and disbursed over a year, will help the following ten countries whose economies have been pushed into recession by the pandemic: the Republic of Albania (€180 million), Bosnia and Herzegovina (€250 million), Georgia (€150 million), the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (€200 million), Kosovo (€100 million), the Republic of Moldova (€100 million), Montenegro (€60 million), the Republic of North Macedonia (€160 million), the Republic of Tunisia (€600 million) and Ukraine (€1.2 billion).

EU recovery plan

-On 27th May 2020, the European Commission presented its recovery plan, proposing to create a new recovery instrument called Next Generation EU worth €750bn of money borrowed on the financial markets. The instrument, which will be embedded in a new 2021-2027 EU budget, introduces new facilities and programmes and also increases the budget of a number of existing programmes.

-At the end of July EU leaders agreed on the EU's recovery plan, and the final budget was agreed in December 2020. On top of the EU's 2021-2027 regular €1 trillion budget the commission will borrow €750bn that will be used to help rebuild the economy, with a focus on supporting the most impacted regions and sectors.

-The deadline for Member States to present their ‘final’ Recovery and Resilience plans to the European Commission was end April 2021.

EU measures for culture

-On 8th April 2020, EU ministers of culture and Commissioner for Culture Mariya Gabriel met to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the culture and creative sectors.

​Commissioner Gabriel highlighted the massive impact of the current crisis on the cultural sector in terms of income and jobs lost. She listed the general measures taken at EU level that could benefit the sector (listed above under « EU general measures ») and announced some sector specific actions under Creative Europe, the EU’s culture programme : 

  • Maximum flexibility within existing rules for ongoing actions, and extended deadlines. (The Commission later published a Q&A for its Creative Europe programme, see here).

  • Clear instructions to creative europe desks in how to apply « force majeure ».

  • Special action for cinemas : €5M supplementary allocation of funds in the form of vouchers for most affected cinemas.

  • Redirecting support scheme for cross-border dimension of performing arts works towards digital culture and virtual mobility. A call of €2m will be announced in May. 

  • Speeding up call for translation of books. 

  • Speeding up evaluation of 2020 cooperation projects.

  • Exploring how to adapt the Cultural and Creative Sector guarantee facility (EU loan guarantee instrument) to mitigate the effect of the crisis. 


Member states welcomed the European commission’s initiatives taken so far.

Commissioner Gabriel also announced that two platforms would be set up : one for member states to exchange about measures to put in place to support the sector, and one for the sector to come up with its own proposals and solutions.

-On 4th May 2020, Commissioners Thierry Breton (Internal Market) and Mariya Gabriel (Culture) were invited to exchange with the European Parliament's Culture committee. In his speech, Breton announced that culture would be one of the 14 priority ecosystems covered by the EU's recovery plan, and that the commission was working with the EU Investment Fund to adapt the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility (loan guarantee instrument) to make it more attractive and useful.

-On 19th May 2020, EU Ministers of Culture and Commissioner for Culture Mariya Gabriel met again to continue the discussion on measures to help the cultural and creative sector recover from the crisis.

Ministers exchanged on measures taken and to come to support the sector. The Ministry of Culture of Croatia, Nina Obuljen Koržinek, which held the presidency of the EU at the time, emphasized the importance of continuing this mapping exercise and of taking a joint and decisive approach. Ministers agreed that the implementation of the copyright directive was needed to align legislation and support cultural diversity and artists.

Commissioner Gabriel updated Ministers on the commission's initiatives since the April meeting:

-2 platforms were launched: one for member states to exchange on measures to support the sector, and one for the sector to contribute ideas (Creatives Unite, see IMPALA's contributions here and here).

-A Creative Europe call for performing arts to be launched shortly after the meeting. (since published, with the call closing on 31st July, see here)

-The 2020 edition of the preparatory action Music Moves Europe (€2,5m) to be reprogrammed to help the music sector. (then published in July as a call to develop a support scheme around three main recovery themes: green, digital, just and resilient - the call closed on 19 November)

-The Commission announced its intention to mobilise money available under Erasmus+ (the EU's framework programme for education, training, youth and sport) for cultural projects.

-As part of the recovery plan presented by the European Commission on 27th May 2020, (see above under "EU recovery plan"), cultural and creative industries were rightly identified as one of the 14 ecosystems which are the hardest hit by the crisis and should be considered priorities. The recovery plan was then agreed under a different shape by EU leaders in July. The cultural and creative sector should in principle be able to benefit from a number of new instruments (e.g. the Recovery and Resilience Facility or React-EU) or existing programmes (e.g. InvestEU or Horizon Europe) funded via the recovery plan. The final recovery plan was adopted in December 2020, along with the EU budget 2021-2027.

- On 29th July 2020, the European Commission and European Investment Fund announced new coronavirus measures and increased flexibility for cultural and creative businesses requesting loans throught the €251 million Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility.

-On 10th November an agreement was reached on the future EU budget 2021-2027 by the three EU institutions, and it was finally adopted in December 2020. A few programmes of interest to the cultural sector will be getting a timely boost:

  • +€600m for Creative Europe, the only EU programme fully dedicated to culture (an increase worth almost half of its current budget), bringing the total budget to €2.2bn.

  • +€1bn for InvestEU, which will deliver (among other things) loans for cultural and creative businesses. 

  • +€4bn for Horizon Europe, the EU's innovation and research programme, with its new cluster for culture and creativity which will have a budget of €2.3bn.

IMPALA welcomed the top-up for culture in the future EU budget (see statement here).

-On 1st December 2020, EU Ministers of culture met again to discuss the recovery of the culture sector from the Covid pandemic. They were joined by 4 EU commissioners, including Culture Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. Ministers welcomed the increased budget for Creative Europe and Horizon Europe (see above), agreed on the need for synergies between Creative Europe and other EU programmes and funds with strands dedicated to cultural and creative activities. In light of the lasting impact of the pandemic on the sector, member states exchanged on the need to target EU recovery measures at those concerned in the cultural and creative sector and on the importance for the sector to be better informed about funding opportunities. Most delegations expressed support for the idea to create an internet portal containing accessible information on funding opportunities for the sector. Many ministers also called for exceptions from travel restrictions for artists and creators. The implementation of implementing the copyright directive as a way to help the sector recover was also discussed. Commissioner Gabriel underlined the fundamental role that the Recovery and Resilience Facility should play for the recovery of the sector, and urged ministers to use this unique instrument for this purpose.

European Parliament

The European Parliament has also been active throughout the crisis. In March 2020, MEP Sabine Verheyen - on behalf of the European Parliament’s culture committee which she chairs - was among the first to call for the EU’s Covid crisis money distributed to member states to reach cultural and creative sectors immediately. On 12 May, MEP Verheyen - again on behalf of the Culture committee - called for the budget of the future 2021-2027 Creative Europe programme (the EU's culture programme) to be doubled, and for an overhaul of rules and procedures which often prove cumbersome for smaller players in the sector.

An interesting initiative was also initiated by MEPs from the green party, and supported by over 100 MEPs across the political spectrum (see full list), and over 300 associations including IMPALA and all its national association members (see full list). The open letter addressed to EU leaders called for support for the cultural and creative sectors to help them address the current crisis and there was quite a lot of complementarity with what IMPALA asked for in its own crisis plan. The accompanying petition was signed by over 8,500 people. 

-Reacting to the budget proposed by the European Commission for Creative Europe as part of its recovery plan presented on 27th May, the Chair of the European Parliament's Culture committee Sabine Verheyen and Massimiliano Smeriglio, the MEP responsible for the Creative Europe file in the Parliament called on the Commission to "rethink its deeply disappointing proposal" which was "sending a terrible message to the cultural and creative and media sectors" (read the statement here). As mentioned above, as part of the agreement found by EU leaders in July 2020 the budget for the Creative Europe programme was first brought back to €1.6bn, up from €1.5bn in the commission's initial proposal from May (it was then further increased to €2.2bn thanks to the push from the parliament, see below).

-In September 2020, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on the cultural recovery of Europe which - among other things, calling to increase the Creative Europe budget to €2.8bn, earmark at least 2% of the Recovery and Resilience Facility for the cultural and creative sector, and ensure SMEs from the sector would benefit from increased support via the future InvestEU programme 2021-2027.

-In November 2020, as mentioned above, an agreement was found between the 3 EU institutions which will give a boost to Creative Europe and a couple other programmes which the cultural and creative sector will be able to benefit from:

  • +€600m for Creative Europe, the only EU programme fully dedicated to culture (an increase worth almost half of its current budget), bringing the total budget to €2.2bn.

  • +€1bn for InvestEU, which will deliver (among other things) loans for cultural and creative businesses. 

  • +€4bn for Horizon Europe, the EU's innovation and research programme, with its new cluster for culture and creativity with a budget of €2.3bn.

EU Measures

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