Opening speech at the European Culture Forum, Milan – Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament

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I should like to thank Commissioner Tibor Navracsics for organising this Forum. It provides a rare opportunity to exchange views and compare experiences in relation to this vital sector.  

As an Italian, I am delighted that Milan should have been chosen to host the event marking the official start of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

We are in a city which has great symbolic significance, where the culture and creativity of the past nurture the living culture of the present.

The history of Milan mirrors that of our continent. For three millennia, it has been a trading centre, a melting pot of peoples, ideas and cultures. It stands at a crossroads: people and goods which have crossed the Alps, passed by the great lakes and travelled the northern Italian plain reach the Mediterranean from here. It is a bridge between North and South, between East and West.

Here, business, innovation and creativity have always been inseparable. Patrons, artists, entrepreneurs, artisans and scholars have been instrumental in ensuring that Milan has remained open at all times to the new, to the future.

Milan has always attracted talented people, one being Leonardo da Vinci, the man who embodied the very essence of the Renaissance, of genius, of versatility. He was a consummate artist, but also an experimenter and inventor, whose interests spanned architecture, science and engineering. He was an industrial designer before the concept even existed.

Milan Cathedral, and its Fabbrica, which has remained active down the centuries and which we will visit tomorrow with Commissioner Navracsics, is another symbol of unceasing dynamism.

This makes Milan one of the capitals of culture, of design, of fashion and of luxury goods. It is a model for the European way of life which is the envy of the whole world. Milan is living proof that history, creativity and innovation are vital to an internationally competitive and successful EU.

We are the continent with half of the UNESCO world heritage sites. Europe is still leading in several sectors of the cultural and creative industries. Wherever you go in the world, Europe is a synonym for style, know-how and beauty.

This is our leadership. A leadership which cannot be delocalised and which has to serve as our springboard for political and economic renewal.

Culture and creativity as factors for growth and job creation

Digitalisation, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence are wreaking drastic changes in our working and private lives. We are in the throes of an industrial revolution in which the new jobs being created are not enough to offset those being lost by people who have been replaced by machines and technologies.

Recent research suggests that around half of all human activities could be replaced by automated processes. In France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, 54 million jobs will be at risk in the next few years alone.

The Union must steer this process of change, by investing more in training and by focusing on sectors in which manual labour and creativity will remain essential. I am thinking of tourism, design, the digitalisation of cultural sites, luxury goods and high-end craft products.

Cultural heritage and European creativity can be key factors in generating growth and jobs.

By adopting the Ehler-Morgano report on A coherent EU policy for the cultural and creative industries, the European Parliament issued a clear call to tap the potential of this sector.

The cultural and creative industries employ 12 million people, 7.5% of the EU workforce, and generate a turnover of EUR 509 billion. The sectors which draw most on intellectual property account for one-quarter of those jobs and one-third of that turnover.

Authors, artists and designers are the main sources of that creativity, which spills over massively into other sectors and contributes to the excellence of European products.

Let’s take luxury goods as an example: it is a market worth EUR 1000 billion in which Europe is the leader, accounting for 70% of production. 

Some 62% of the luxury goods manufactured in Europe are sold abroad and they make up 10% of the EU’s total exports.

Synergies between tourism and the cultural and creative industries

Synergies between the cultural and creative industries and tourism are another key engine for growth.

Already today, tourism accounts for 10% of EU GDP and 10% of jobs in the Union. Between now and 2030, the number of visitors to Europe will double, from 1 to 2 billion.

Europe can cater for the travel interests of this new emerging class, many of whom are Asians, by exploiting its historical heritage, its way of life and its creativity. The aim is to consolidate our leading position, by increasing the number of tourists who come to Europe from the current figure of 550 million to 700 million by 2020. Over the next 10 years, we can create up to 5 million jobs.

Manufacturing excellence and the creative industries attract tourism, in the same way that tourism fosters exports. This goes for clothing, cheese and wine just as much as for cars, luxury hotels and the audiovisual sector. People in China who buy our high-quality products or watch films set in Europe will be encouraged to visit our continent.

2018 will also be the Year of EU-China Tourism, another opportunity we must not waste. The official launch, which I will have the pleasure of attending, will take place in Venice on 19 January 2018, in the presence of the Chinese Prime Minister. It is a prime example of cultural diplomacy and will generate growth and lead to closer cooperation with China.

The digital revolution – opportunities and challenges

The digital revolution is opening up unprecedented possibilities: three-dimensional virtual tours of museums and cathedrals; ‘journeys through time’ or ‘augmented reality experiences’ at archaeological sites; new kinds of online booking and shopping services; and the availability of audiovisual products on demand. By 2020, 20% of purchases of branded goods will be made online.

Political governance of this revolution is essential. Economic opportunities and new freedoms for consumers and firms must not be allowed to degenerate into a free-for-all, and they must not serve to legitimise the piracy which enables people to enrich themselves at the expense of those who create content.

The rules must be the same for all businesses, whether they operate online or offline. Digital platforms must not be above the law. Like other firms, they must be accountable, pay taxes, guarantee transparency and safeguard social rights, minors, security, consumers and intellectual property.

The market for pirated and counterfeit goods is continuing to grow, thanks in no small part to the web. Anyone who visits platforms in order to enjoy, free of charge, audiovisual content and artistic images, read the news or find information about hotels and restaurants is lining the pockets of the web giants. They are earning billions through advertising, the provision of intermediary services and the mining of personal data, and their coffers swell whenever people click on their pages in search of content created by others.

Those who once touted themselves as champions of freedom and innovation are now acting like the feudal lords who, in the Middle Ages, imposed tolls on anyone who used the roads they controlled from their castles.

The dominant positions which many platforms enjoy in the areas of commerce, bookings, the provision of news and online advertising – positions made possible by regulatory disparities – are suffocating SMIs and creativity.

Music rights holders receive more in royalties from bars with a few dozen customers than from the people who make their works available to millions of people on the internet. Amazon has sent small publishing houses to the wall. Google and Facebook use news reports and content to sell advertising, without offering the journalists concerned proper remuneration in return.

The web giants create very few jobs in Europe, and pay derisory amounts of tax, avoiding most of what would be an annual bill of roughly EUR 20 billion. In Italy, they pay just EUR 11.7 million.

The digital single market is the main driving force behind the cultural and creative industries. It makes it possible to disseminate content and branded products and to launch start-ups.

It is essential that this market safeguard the work done by product and fashion designers and creators of songs, TV series, films, articles and books. If we fail to protect creativity, investment will dwindle, with disastrous consequences for Europe’s competitiveness.

The most recent European legislation on copyright dates back to 2001, to a time before the web giants existed.

Commissioners Bieńkowska and Gabriel are working to complete the digital market, and Parliament is calling for measures to promote creativity and equal conditions for everyone.

Attracting investment

The cultural and creative industries face a series of obstacles which are stifling their potential. Access to finance, for example, especially for SMEs, remains a problem.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage will also be the year in which we discuss the next multiannual budget.

If we are to revitalise the Union and provide our citizens with answers, then we need a budget that reflects their priorities. Investment in education and culture must be increased.

Other sources of financing can be found, without asking the public to make further sacrifices, by collecting taxes from those who are currently not paying them – starting with web platforms.

At the same time, existing sources of funding need to be used more effectively. EU regional funds, in synergy with Horizon 2020, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and the European Investment Bank, can be used to provide the guarantees needed to back projects in the fields of culture and creativity. This could contribute, for example, to the rediscovery, harnessing and digitisation of Europe’s cultural heritage – with a corresponding increase in visitor numbers and jobs.

It is also vital to invest more in skills and training. There is a shortage of museum managers, skilled chefs, digital experts, cultural mediators, designers and programmers, but also of the manual skills needed to produce high-end goods.


Awareness of our own identity is the foundation for a strong and open Europe, one which does not just accept diversity, but regards it as an asset. Being Italian means being European. We have no need for new barriers or borders or parochial nationalism.

Drawing on our deep-rooted faith in humankind, we rose out of the ashes of war and put the freedom and dignity of the individual at the centre of our European project.

Our identity is one born on the shores of the Mediterranean and it has been shaped by openness to exchanges of all kinds – of goods, of ideas and of culture. It has Judeo-Christian roots, and was forged in abbeys and universities, during the Humanist period, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage, of which the European Parliament has been a strong advocate, offers an opportunity to rediscover and promote that identity and bring the Union closer to its peoples.

Even more than our economy, culture is the glue which holds Europe together, and culture must be the starting point for our efforts to revitalise our Union.