Dear fans of European film, - 28. Dny evropského filmu

Dear fans of European film,

The times we are living through resemble the horror and sci-fi stories we thought were confined to the worlds of literature, film and television: an unprecedented global pandemic. The situation feels like something from the screenplays of 12 Monkeys (from 1995), Outbreak (1995), 28 days later (2002) or Contagion (2011).

The reality and the paradox of the situation is that with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, film productions, premieres, festivals and other cultural events have had to be cancelled, severely curtailed or delayed, delivering a major blow to the creative industries and to film lovers.

Culture doesn’t just enrich our daily lives. It’s also an important sector of the EU economy. According to Eurostat data, 7.4 million people worked in the culture sector in 2019 across the EU-27, making up 3.7% of the EU workforce. The European film industry consists mostly of smaller companies, making it particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.

A knock-on effect of the restrictions on movement was the immediate freezing of hundreds of projects in production, disrupted cash flows and production companies pushed toward bankruptcy. To limit and mitigate the damage, governments and national film and audio-visual funds across the EU responded quickly by introducing protective measures, special concessions and grants. In addition to the rapid approval of the REACT-EU investment initiative for the sectors and workers most affected by the pandemic-related restrictions on personal movement, the European Union granted a temporary exemption from state aid rules and, among other measures, proposed an instrument, known as SURE (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency), to mitigate unemployment risks caused by the pandemic. It also adapted the conditions of the Creative Europe programme, the EU’s flagship support initiative for the audio-visual and creative industries: it extended application deadlines for certain grant calls and introduced a flexible approach for projects that had to be cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. The Creative Europe programme also includes a loan guarantee fund for small and medium-sized enterprises in cultural and creative industries. The programme’s budget for the next seven years has been increased by 64% over that of the 2014-20 period.

This is the latest of several crises we have lived through, and they all send us the clear message that the world will never be the same again. The economic crisis showed us that the socio-economic system in its current form is fragile and unsustainable if not modernised. The refugee crisis has shown the need to build an effective system of international law and reduce systemic injustice and social disparities on a global scale. The threat of climate change delivers a stark warning that we need to transform our economies and industries and change many aspects of our lifestyles to make life on Earth sustainable. This is what Europe is aiming for – a modern, sustainable and environmentally friendly economy with a strong element of social protection. 

The current crisis has affected every single one of us, forcing us out of our comfort zones. We are no longer able to say it’s happening somewhere else far away, and that it doesn’t concern us personally. We have witnessed a great wave of social solidarity and selfless acts of assistance. And it has become clear that pulling together is worth the effort.

Like every one of us, and society as a whole, the European Union has been put through a demanding test. Despite its responsibility in certain fields being limited, the EU has taken resolute action in many sectors of the economy, including health, research, employment, tourism, transport and others. The story of this cooperation is certainly deserving of attention. Providing safe and effective vaccines, delivering medical equipment where it is most needed, taking in patients from other countries, protecting jobs and workers, and providing assistance to countries around the world – EU countries’ efforts to help each other have gone beyond the usual framework of cooperation.

It is important not to be silent about this. Quite the opposite: it is in all our interests to talk about it and to remind ourselves that it is the joint efforts of EU member states that make it possible to weather crises such as the one we find ourselves in. 

A strange year of restrictions and lockdowns lies behind us. I hope we can return as quickly as possible to living our lives and enjoying culture unrestricted.

Dana Kovaříková

Head of the Representation of the European Commission in the Czech Republic


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