To lighten the mood during confinement, we Europeans have consumed an untold amount of films, TV series, novels and essays, which would otherwise have languished on our real or virtual shelves. News and discussion, in this period of uncertainty, have come to seem a non-negotiable right: we are now all too conscious of the essential role public and quality media plays in our democracies. Yet the cultural economy has never been more fragile. Key creative sectors such as concerts, theatre, exhibitions, cinema, have come to a standstill. Industries such as broadcasting, publishing and the printed press are at risk of bankruptcy.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, our political institutions are rightly giving priority to public health and economic recovery. However, our rescue plans cannot afford to neglect culture and the media: not just because non-European giants are ready and waiting to buy up our cultural treasures at a bargain, but because it is Europe’s very identity and resilience that are at stake.

In the world of tomorrow, our cultural capital will be our major asset. Failing to protect it would be to deprive ourselves of a fundamental motor of growth, cohesion and unity.

Europe is a formidable cultural space, rich in festivals, exhibitions, memorials, audiovisual and cinematic productions – a land of ideas and diversity. Our 24 official languages, our 281 regions, our tens of thousands of museums, cinema screens and libraries, our almost 400 World Heritage Sites... are an embodiment of our diversity, that which unites us and continues to fascinate populations around the world. This energy, apart from the seven percent of EU GDP that the cultural sector represents, is central to the success of our luxury goods, tourism, and high-end automobile industries.

Moreover, it’s our soft power, the key to our relationship with global powers like China, which respects Europe because Europe is the continent of culture. When Roosevelt placed culture at the centre of the New Deal, he bet on the power of American culture to inspire national unity, and economic and political success.

On 23 April, our leaders tasked the European Commission with proposing an unprecedented plan for the transformation of Europe. We fully support its priorities: sustainable development, strategic digitalisation and autonomy. However, we want to see more ambition from our leaders. The health crisis has shown how healthcare is an essential form of humanism. Let’s not wait for the economic crisis to understand that European culture is inseparable from European humanism, and is its very source. Culture and the media must be at the centre of Europe’s recovery, as strategic sectors for European autonomy, and as the structural preconditions of social renewal. There is life and there is the value of life. We must secure a durable future for our culture by taking advantage of the latest technological advances such as artificial intelligence and automatic translation. As the “Towards European Media Sovereignty” report reminds us, there can be no democratic sovereignty for Europe without cultural and media sovereignty. This is a historic opportunity to create a genuine multilingual European cultural space, place our creative energy and diversity at the centre of our recovery, and reconnect with the spirit of the Renaissance.