Europe’s culture needs rebound after massive pandemic hit

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Cultural institutions in the European Union have lost up to four-fifths of revenue and attendance as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the continent and now need all the financial support they can get to restore their standing, the bloc said Tuesday.

The latest EU figures show that museums in popular tourist regions lost up to 80% of revenue last year. Cinemas saw a drop in box office sales of 70%, while attendance for music concerts and festivals fell 76%, resulting in a 64% drop in revenue.

“Everybody has lost out here and we need to revive the sector,” said EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas.

And from summer music festivals attracting tens of thousands to small museums displaying historical gems on a hardscrabble budget, everyone has been hurt. Beyond cultural considerations, such institutions often are the driving force of Europe’s tourism industry, on which so many of the 27 member states depend for revenue and employment.

And as the bloc is starting to claw back from the worst recession in its history, Schinas insisted culture should not be left behind.

“It is part of our European DNA,” Schinas said. “For Europe to regain its status as a global cultural power, the sector needs coordinated, tailor-made efforts throughout Europe so that they can reopen safely, but also sustainably.”

He said a key part is for member states to give art and culture ample space in their requests for recovery funds from the EU, when the bloc can go on the open market for grants and loans to make sure nations can bounce back from the economic setback.

Typically, tourist-dependent nations like Italy and Spain include direct investments to boost museums. Overall, the pandemic-specific recovery funds amounts to about 675 billion euros to tap from.

“It is essential that in the national recovery and resilience funds, our member states do make an effort to include these sectors as important elements for the recovery,” Schinas said.

He insisted the EU itself had boosted support for the sector by 4.5 billion euros over the next six years.

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