The New European Bauhaus: a new impetus for European funding
The New European Bauhaus is a cross-sectoral initiative launched by the European Commission at the beginning of 2021, in line with the Green Deal: it is one of its most direct and ambitious transpositions. The initiative combines three key themes: resilience, inclusion and aesthetics. With substantial resources, it aims to implement the famous Green Deal in the daily lives of citizens throughout the European Union. It is therefore necessary to analyse the objectives of this policy on the one hand, and its feasibility on the other.
I. NEB: Innovative operation for new ambitions
A. An innovative operation, the driving force behind the Green Deal
The NEB is a small revolution: its financing method brings together funds from a total of approximatively ten direct-access European programmes (such as Horizon Europe, LIFE or Creative Europe). The initiative, which has been in preparation for many months, is divided into three phases: consultation (the preliminary phase, which took place from January to June 2021), implementation (the test phase, which is ongoing until the end of 2022), and communication (i.e. the dissemination of the initiative on a larger scale, scheduled for 2022/2023).
This operation seeks to create and strengthen a common cultural identity throughout the Union, with the design criterion being one of the Commission’s major concerns in selecting the winning projects. It is also an initiative that aims to be as close as possible to the citizens, since it allows for the implementation of public consultations and prizes for individuals, unlike the overwhelming majority of European programmes. Finally, this level of proximity to the citizen should allow him to assist (to) the implementation of the Green Deal.
B. A new impetus for existing programmes: the example of Creative Europe
Thanks to the New European Bauhaus, it is a question of projecting ourselves, of changing our lifestyles, our cities, by associating professions from research and production (engineers, scientists, etc.) with others from the artistic world (architects, designers, etc.). This direction taken by the Commission – after several months of consultations, programme definition and needs – clarifies the ambitions of the initiative, which left all options open as to its initial scope.
Therefore, it is not a question of rendering the Creative Europe programme obsolete (which has been responding to the Union’s cultural problems until now) but rather of strengthening it by adding additional funding possibilities. Moreover, it focuses more on the production of audiovisual or media works than on architecture. Indeed, the staff – and funds – allocated to Creative Europe are currently mobilised mainly to preserve existing cultural facilities following the Covid-19 crisis, and will benefit greatly from these new funds.
However, these laudable ambitions face certain difficulties that call into question the ability of the NEB to live up to its ambitions.
II. New European Bauhaus: An ambitious initiative with uncertain outcomes
A. A high-risk transversality
Although the operation of the New European Bauhaus is innovative and the ambitions it displays are important (for example, by associating citizens on a scale never before achieved by the Community institutions), they come up against the limits inherent in their conception.
Firstly, by its transversality. By defining the framework within which this plan is implemented more clearly, it would have been much easier to see the precise modalities of its application. Although some of the calls for projects bear the label “New European Bauhaus” to give them a specific orientation, they are scattered and have little connection with each other – at least for the moment. That being said, this fragmentation is a choice: that of freeing oneself from the usual framework of funding programmes, which are not very flexible. This could make it easier to reach new audiences with greater flexibility, thereby fulfilling the ambitions of the Green Deal. Nevertheless, the most important risk is that the effectiveness of its action will be weakened.
B. Voluntary vagueness and uncertainty for participants
This first limitation is the direct consequence of a second: the absence of a specific budget dedicated to the initiative; the absence of a legal framework for its application. It is impossible, to date, to say precisely what amount will be allocated to which part of the initiative, despite the publication of the list of calls for projects in the same way as Horizon Europe.
One and a half years after its launch, the NEB is already floundering. This can be seen, for example, in the redefinition of its field of action in relation to its initial ambitions or the lack of visibility of funding. This first operational phase leaves two unknowns. On the one hand, how will it be received by project leaders? On the other hand, what form should be given to its follow-up?