IFLA alongside EBLIDA, LIBER, NAPLEPublic Libraries 2030 and SPARC Europe has signed a joint letter calling on European leaders to reconsider their choices around the EU budget for 2021-27, and, in particular to do better for research, education, culture and digital inclusion.

At any time, the process of agreeing the European Union’s Multi-Year Financial Framework would be important. Now, faced with the need to support the response to and recovery from COVID-19, the choices made are essential.

With over a trillion euros planned spending over seven years, the Framework has the potential to make a real difference to many aspects of European life, complementing national spending, and realising the potential of cross-border cooperation.

European Union spending has contributed to valuable progress in areas where libraries are active.

Spending on culture has supported digitisation and access. Spending on research has brough experts together in order to make real advances and support open access and open science. Spending on education has allowed for generations of young people to study elsewhere, and professional connections to be built across borders. Spending on digital inclusion has allowed great ideas to be developed and shared.

These efforts have brought real benefits to so many lives so far. They will also be essential into the future, as Europe looks not only to recover, but to build back better.

This is why the decision by Member States in their recent negotiations on the Union’s budget seem so unhelpful. These threaten to cut spending on research, to freeze that on culture and digital culture, and to pass only minimal increases to support for education.

A statement prepared by associations representing libraries in Europe – IFLA, EBLIDA, LIBER, SPARC Europe and NAPLE – welcomes the steps already taken by Members of the European Parliament to call for change, and offers the support of our institutions across the bloc.

The statement is available below:

Covid-19 is the worst crisis affecting Europe since the Second World War. Many people are facing unemployment or reduced hours of work ; pupils and students are attending schools and universities only to a limited extent. During these difficult times, libraries have shown great resilience. In many cases and in many countries, librarians have reached out to citizens in need and have helped, and continue to help them to get access to education and information with broadband internet and media, in spite of adverse conditions. This is clearly shown by various EBLIDAIFLANAPLE Reports, LIBER StatementSPARC Europe resources and PL 2030 Lighthouse Sessions.

The unprecedented effort that has been put together to support the European post-Covid recovery phase cannot be to the detriment of culture, education, research, social and digital inclusion, cultural heritage and democracy. The world of libraries is concerned about the inadequacy of the European response in relation to programmes relating to all of these areas, notably the Creative Europe and Horizon Europe programmes and those helping Europe’s citizens make the most of digital technologies. As such, we endorse the resolution of the European Parliament of 23 July.

While support for economic recovery under the new  Multiannual Financial Framework is welcome, the Multiyear Financial Framework deals either cuts, or falls far short of previous commitments in key areas, risking seriously reducing the ability of the EU’s action in areas such as culture, research and digital inclusion to deliver on its potential.  Erasmus+, Creative Europe, the EU’s research programmes, and those for digital inclusion support advanced and very successful projects which all European citizens consider as the most apparent symbols of European cohesion and identity. It is a fact that the Erasmus generation has made Europe and it is hard to see how our next EU generation will contribute to a stronger Europe if European cultural and educational cooperation is neglected. Similarly, the EU’s research programmes are helping Europe to realise its potential as a global leader.

The European library world represented by EBLIDAIFLALIBERNAPLEPL 2030 and SPARC Europe is therefore calling for stronger financial support for culture, education, research and digital inclusion and an increase of the resources allocated to relevant programmes.