Welcome speech Dr Anton Rombouts Chairman of the EDUC commission Committee of the Regions Brussels 29 January 2014 Conference on Culture & Creativity Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, A city that invests in culture will perform better economically than cities that do not. Cities need to invest in culture. I've known this for a long time, but the question is: why? I've been searching for an answer to this question for 20 years now, and, to be honest, I'm still searching. Meanwhile I've found some answers, though certainly not all of them. But I would like to share with you the answers I have found so far. And I'm curious to hear the answers that you have. This is the main reason for organising this conference. I want to thank the staff of the Committee under the management of Laurent Thieule for fulfilling my wish for this conference on the importance of culture and creativity for cities and regions. Because, dear colleagues, I've been fully convinced by my own experiences as a city mayor and confirmed in my belief by several international surveys that cities and regions that invest in culture, sports and education are economically more successful than cities and regions that do not, and that, moreover, these cities and regions do ultimately become safer places to live. Five words, five sectors: culture, sports, education, economics and security. Investments in the first three promote the last two. More employment, more security, more jobs, more secure cities and regions. In 2002 Richard Florida published his famous book ‘The rise of the creative class’, in which he explained why cities that were able to attract the cultural and creative sectors were thriving. This innovative class with its boundless imagination brings vitality and dynamism into cities and fuels their growth, in terms of both quantity and quality. In economic terms this means more visitors and more investments, and in social terms more social cohesion and less crime. But, ladies and gentlemen, there are other reasons why cities and regions need to invest in culture, sports and education. As the mayor of a medium-sized city myself in the Netherlands, my experience is that when a city takes care of all its young people, native and immigrant, helping them to complete their schooling and leave with a certificate, this is the best prophylactic against unemployment. And if a city does succeed in providing sports facilities for all its young people, this is the best way to prevent idle loitering, vandalism and crime. A recent survey showed that one extra year of education decreases the likelihood that a young person will commit a crime to less than twenty per cent. And, thirdly, if a city is able to expose its young people to any kind of culture, this is the best prevention against intolerance, disrespect, discrimination and exclusion of others. As Simone Milsdochter, who will perform for us in half an hour, stated years ago: don’t ask what culture can bring to people; ask what culture can take away from them. Her answer had three parts: A good book a touching film an incisive play a moving poem and a protest song They all create doubts and can free us of our prejudices, our fear of something unusual, a foreigner, an immigrant, and our rigid vision of the world. Artistic education, alongside physical education, is of great importance to the moral education of our children. Aesthetic education in the broader meaning of Friedrick Schiller is the art of living together harmoniously. An art and a skill that you can learn. And this learning doesn't stop when we reach maturity, but needs to be practised for the rest of our lives. The Dutch sociologist Schuyt stated last week during a lecture in Herzogenbusch, a former concentration camp outside my city, that "the best way to endow new generations with moral skills is by aesthetic education, by sports, by physical and mental education, by putting on a play together, or by making music together. This is the best way to learn how to deal with other people with differences in character and temperament, in education and attitude, in skin colour and social background. Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, To sum up: we need to turn moral education into moral intelligence. That is the point. Moral education shapes courageous people who dare to question their own privilege, dare to stand up against injustice and fight for justice, tolerance and respect. Europe needs courageous citizens and brave politicians who can convincingly champion a new narrative for the European Union. Let us local and regional politicians start this process in our own cities and regions by making room for the cultural and creative sectors. Let us start today. On behalf of the Committee of the Regions I wish you a very warm welcome and I thank you for your attention.
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