A paradigmatic shift: Emergence of the 'creativity frame'

The ‘creativity frame' focuses on the potential of culture to promote European competitiveness. If this discourse is not new, its dominance of the EU agenda and the strength with which it is asserted are unprecedented. DG EAC has traditionally upheld a dual rationale to justify the existence and the promotion of EU-level cultural policies. In the absence of a treaty competence for culture before the Maastricht Treaty, finding justification for EU intervention in the field had always been a tricky endeavour. Even after the Maastricht Treaty, the setback persisted because safeguards for national autonomy were provided via a strict application of the principle of subsidiarity. In this context, EU institutions first presented the developing of EU cultural activity as a political imperative. If the EU was to succeed as an entity, European citizens should be made aware of their belonging to a common culture. The 1985 Adonnino reports on a people's Europe contained specific sections devoted to culture, suggesting the introduction of concrete ‘European' symbols to which citizens could relate - such as the European flag and the European anthem (Adonnino, 1985b). At the core of the notion of a people's Europe was the idea that the integration project should not be only concerned with market-making, but also with a more ‘fundamental' project of community building, fostering a sense of European identity.

Second, the Commission placed emphasis on the economic and social potential of the cultural sector. In the 1977 Communication on Community action in the cultural sector, the cultural sector was defined as 'the persons and undertakings involved in the production and distribution of cultural goods and services' (European Commission, 1977: 5), with the main objective to ensure free trade. In the 1987 Communication, A fresh boost for culture in the European Community, the Commission asserted that 'increased cultural activity [was]... a political as well as a social and economic necessity, given the twin goals of completing the internal market by 1992 and progressing from a People's Europe to European Union' (European Commission, 1987: 6). Thus, EU intervention in the field of culture always oscillated between applying general free-trade principles and promoting a cultural policy in its own name, justified by the need to make European citizens aware of the existence of a common identity. With the launch of the 'creativity frame', however, the economic nature of the EU's discourse on culture took a new dimension.

The take-off of the 'creativity frame' came about with the 2006 study The economy of culture in Europe carried out by KEA European Affairs, a Brussels-based consultancy which specialises in the cultural, media and entertainment sectors, for the Commission (KEA et al., 2006: 31). The study provided the Commission services with the data, discursive arguments and programmatic solutions that were necessary to frame culture as a source of competitiveness and a key axis of the then Lisbon Strategy (European Council, 2000). The European agenda for culture in a globalizing world (the Cultural Agenda) institutionalised and gave visibility to the 'creativity frame' (European Commission, 2007a). Invoking the KEA study, the Commission pointed that 'the cultural sector contributed around 2.6 percent to the EU GDP in 2003' (ibid.: 9). Culture was presented as a direct source of creativity, and creativity was defined in terms of its potential for social and technological innovation, and thus as an 'important driver of growth, competitiveness and jobs' (ibid.). DG EAC, in fact, articulated a conceptual link between the cultural sector and broader economic concerns such as growth, employment and social cohesion, through the fashioning of an ad hoc conception of creativity. The terms culture, creativity and innovation were used in an artificially articulated triadic relationship between: (a) culture as a source of creativity; (b) creativity as a necessary factor for technological innovation; and (c) technological innovation as an essential component of growth and competitiveness.

The 'creativity frame' promoted by DG EAC obtained recognition at the highest political level. In his speech at the European Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation, in November 2009, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso explained that it is important 'to link participants from science to art and culture [... ] and put innovation and creativity at the heart of tomorrow's policies' (Barroso, 2009). The discourse fostered by DG EAC was also adopted at the intergovernmental level. In 2007, the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council issued its Conclusions on the contribution of the cultural and creative sectors to the achievement of the Lisbon objectives, in which the agenda developed by the Commission was fully endorsed (Council, 2007a). A few months later, heads of government within the European Council acknowledged the potential of the 'cultural and creative industries' to contribute to the aims of the Lisbon Agenda, giving culture full horizontal recognition (European Council, 2008). Thus, DG EAC succeeded in imposing the 'creativity frame' within the Commission, which then promoted it as a workable programmatic solution at the intergovernmental level.

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