Estonian government puts forth a 42 million euro aid package to cultural sector, including a 6 million risk fund for events

17 March 2021 Culture

Photo: Kaupo Kalda

The Estonian government agreed on a supplementary budget, with 42 million euros set to be allocated to culture. The sum includes a separate fund in the amount of 6 million euros, aimed at providing security for international cultural and sports events. 

Cultural organisations, businesses, and creative persons joined efforts to ascertain the extent of the need for an aid package for culture, as well as the impact of culture on the economy. 

On 4 March, the cultural sector submitted a proposal to the government on a crisis exit strategy, which was signed by 335 organisations from the cultural and creative industry. Representatives from music, arts, performing arts, museums, folk culture, literature, film and cinema emphasised in their joint proposal that culture has a significant impact on both the economy as well as the population’s mental health. The proposal included both short-term and long-term propositions and an outline of the needed crisis package, which would help culture survive in the current situation and recover afterwards. 

The sector’s proposal put forth that “Culture is a driver of the Estonian economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism and the service sector. The looming bankruptcies and closures of businesses in the cultural sector will have a widespread negative effect on the whole economy. We also want to emphasise the role of culture in supporting mental health during a difficult time. When we look back at Estonian history, it has been culture that has provided our people with purpose and relief through uncertainty and challenges. Therefore, reopening cultural life at first opportunity is of a definitive importance to the population’s general wellbeing, to the rebuilding of the sector, as well as to a fast restart of the economy.” 

The proposal of the cultural sector was discussed with the Ministry of Culture, as well as with the Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus at a meeting that took place on 13 March. As a result of the discussions, in addition to the relief package, a risk fund was also established for large-scale events, which will help cover unavoidable costs that are incurred if the event is cancelled, postponed or limited due to COVID-related restrictions. At the meeting with the Minister of Finance, the discussion also included the role of the cultural sector as a contributing partner in the European digital and green turn. 

The relief package of 42 millions euros in total for culture was decided by the Government of Estonia on 16th March 2021.

Helen Sildna (Tallinn Music Week festival): “Today is a special day. The cultural sector proved that there is great strength in cooperation and the whole sector can continue work with more confidence. It is also significant that the members of government understand that culture supports both the economy as well as our citizens’ mental health. The new risk fund is meant for large events and festivals to cover unavoidable costs in case of cancellation, postponement, and restrictions. The purpose of the risk fund is to encourage organisers to plan events in the second half of the year in order to restart the economy, yet provide confidence that their expenses will be covered in changing circumstances. The sector’s next objective is to continue working together in order for culture to have a clear part in the EU relief packages as well.”

Ave Tölpt (Music Estonia): “I am very glad that the cultural sector has been highlighted in the crisis packages as a sector with a much wider impact. I believe that thanks to the representatives of the sector coming together to formulate their message, the mechanisms of the cultural sector as a whole have become much more comprehensible in general as well. The necessary aid for survival in the crisis will help retain the diversity of the music sector and the related businesses in the future with a greater sense of hope.”

Eva Saar (festival Jazzkaar): “Cultural organisations have an important role in restarting the economy after the virus situation improves and also as the providers of nourishment for the spirit. The decision that the government made today gives the sector a chance to survive and carry that weighty role in the future as well. The creation of a risk fund for large-scale events is forward-looking and encourages organisers to bring economically and imagologically important international events to Estonia – this is a significant signal for those outside of Estonia as well. Thank you to everyone who contributed and to the policymakers.”

Tiina Lokk-Tamberg (Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival): “Today truly is a great day because the cultural sector received a very substantial crisis aid package. However, I would like to highlight that in addition, the concerns of cinemas and distributors have been noticed, which shows that the government has a good view of the entire sector’s synergy. The risk fund for events that are internationally important and bring added value to the Estonian economy is another very big thing. It really is huge. Thank you.”

Representatives of the cultural sector will now continue working towards including cultural activities and a role for culture into the European funds packages as well (Just Transition and Recovery and Resilience Facility funds), since the cultural sector can significantly contribute to the Estonian digital and green turns, as well as towards reviving the economy. 

The sector’s proposal to the government is to: “Increase funds allocated for the recovery of culture and the creative economy from European Union funds – including the 2021-2021 European Structural Funds and the Just Transition Fund. Estonia has not allocated funds to the creative sector from REACT-EU. Additionally, the financing of the sector from other EU funds has been insufficient. At the same time, the European Commission has highlighted culture as the sector hardest hit by the crisis (European Commission 2020) and the European Parliament has called on the Commission and Member States to earmark at least 2 percent of the European Recovery and Resilience Facility for their support.”

Of the supplementary budget, 21 million euros will be allocated to support cultural events organisers, for example, the music sector, museums and performing arts establishments. The measure for organisers in culture will help businesses and organisations cover the costs of labour hired with contracts under the law of obligations, as well as other unavoidable costs. A separate set of measures in the sum of 5,3 million euros is aimed at cinemas, film production and film distributors. 6,7 million euros will go towards supporting freelance creative persons. Sports are set to receive nearly 2,7 million euros. Of that 1 million is aimed at the registered operators of sports facilities. Since the Unemployment Insurance Fund support measures do not apply to coaches and supervisors employed with contracts under the law of obligations, there is a separate support measure for them as well. 

A separate risk fund in the amount of 6 million euros is aimed at securing international cultural and sports events. The purpose of this measure is to support large-scale events with a significant economic impact, whose costs have been already incurred and must be covered regardless of the restrictions. 

The supplementary budget will be sent to the Parliament on 18 March for final approval. 

Read the initial proposal.