There are elections taking place in the middle and at the end of the year that are likely to be important for all Europeans, regardless of which country they live in. These are the European Parliament elections in June and the presidential elections in the USA in November. With the beginning of the year 2024 at the latest, it seems that both election dates have finally entered our horizon of perception. More and more voices can be heard talking of the threat of a rightward shift concerning both elections. This raises the question of how best to react to this situation. Panicking is undoubtedly the worst of all solutions. Informing ourselves and talking to people is always good, but it is also obvious that it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in dialogue with people outside our bubble.


The ‘Pop the Vote!’ project, which is also promoted and supported by AEC, aims to counteract this positively by specifically addressing a young generation of emerging cultural professionals and artists who are encouraged to consciously accept and live their role as cultural citizens and to inspire others to do the same. Pop the Vote! works with young artists and higher art education institutions in 14 EU countries to act as changemakers in their communities and mobilise them to participate in the European Parliamentary elections 2024 by co-creating a multi-action campaign. You are welcome to spread the idea and maybe even initiate some activities in the spirit of Pop the Vote! at your local level.


2024 also marks the halfway point of the current budget period of the European Union, the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021 to 2027. Although money will not be distributed on a grand scale, the course will be set on how to shape the budget in the next MFF. Last year, the EU Commission already asked the community to give feedback on their experiences with project funding programmes under Erasmus+, Creative Europe and Horizon through detailed questionnaires. Particular attention was paid to procedural issues, such as introducing a lump sum principle to Creative Europe which was modelled on the Horizon programmes, as well as to the newly introduced content priorities, such as inclusion and diversity, digital transformation, the fight against climate change and strengthening European values and civic engagement. In the case of Creative Europe, targeted measures were added to enable small and medium organisations in the music sector to survive, as those have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Draft versions of the evaluation reports are in the meantime available and have already been discussed in the European Parliament. It is still too early to draw conclusions, but it looks like the bureaucratic burden of submitting an application is still perceived as too high, especially by independent organisations. Nevertheless, due to the consequences of COVID-19, the number of applications has increased so dramatically, especially on the Creative Action Europe Cooperation calls, that the chances of success are overall decreasing.


However, the AEC is not only involved in the process of the mid-term evaluation of European funding programmes by forwarding questionnaires to our members and completing them ourselves, but also by being involved in both standing committees and ad hoc hearings with representatives of the Commission and its subordinate bodies. In these meetings, the focus is less on analysing the experience gained under the evaluation, but more on discussing prospects for planning future programmes and calls. Over the next six months, a window will open in this respect. In concerted action with partner networks from the fields of music and higher education, special attention will be paid to the further development of the Horizon programmes, which ventured into the funding of research projects in the fields of art and culture with the launch of Cluster 2: Culture, Creativity and Inclusive society, which was added to the Horizon programme only two years ago. It is a good sign that the representatives of the European Union institutions are involving the networks in this process and listening to what they have to say.


Digitisation and Artificial Intelligence are also expected to remain hot topics this year, especially as the rapid pace of technological development means that new questions will constantly pop up for both the actors in the cultural and creative as well as educational sectors and quick answers are also expected in terms of advocacy.  A recent welcomed development in this realm is the “Cultural diversity and the conditions for authors in the European music streaming market” report which was adopted by the European Parliament on 17th January. The report, spearheaded by MEP Ibán García Del Blanco, calls on the European Commission to review the music streaming market and how current practices impact artists and songwriters. The report highlights the current imbalances in revenue allocation, the insufficient growth of the overall revenue pie, fraudulent and unfair practices in the market that disfavour creators, and the imminent threat to cultural diversity deriving from harmful streaming manipulation practices and the proliferation of AI-generated content.


However, also the Green Deal and Green Transformation will stay on the top of the list of advocacy topics, with climate justice issues likely to take centre stage. Last but not least, we must unfortunately expect populism and war to remain hot topics, and we must ask ourselves what contribution music, art and culture can make to strengthening civil society.