How does culture and investing in culture contribute to the overall development of the local community, how do sponsors and donors decide which projects to support, how do cultural workers communicate with potential sponsors and donors and how does the European Capital of Culture project promote cooperation between business and the cultural sector – those were the topics of the Business 2 Culture conference held on Friday, 8 June at the Rijeka Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The conference has caused great interest, especially among cultural workers, underlining the statement at the opening of the conference by the Minister of Culture of Croatia Nina Obuljen Koržinek: reducing public funds for culture and the ever-increasing “quest” for funding in the private sector is a European trend.

This trend was the reason why Rijeka 2020 organised the conference. At its opening, the Director of RIJEKA 2020 Ltd, Emina Višnić, clarified that it was no coincidence that both cultural workers and businesspeople were invited to the conference: they were invited to discuss cooperation and the result of these talks (and activities that will follow) should be a wider contribution to the development of innovative products and relationships, and synergy that will provide society with added value through culture.

“Culture cannot do without public support, but if we only stick to public funding, we will fail to tap into all development opportunities. In that sense, the title of the European Capital of Culture is a great celebration of Croatian and European cultural diversity which will take place throughout the country in 2020, but it is also a chance for all of us to create not just cultural and artistic programmes but also a longer lasting legacy”, said Višnić.

The mayor of Rijeka Vojko Obersnel further touched on the topic by saying that even during the candidacy for the title of the European Capital of Culture, it was thought of as not only a cultural project but rather as something much wider that should have a significantly greater contribution to the development of the whole community. “Today we know that in 2020 we will be the European Capital of Culture. That is a great challenge and an obligation, but it is our expectation that all the projects and activities running until 2020 will help us complete the postindustrial transformation of Rijeka, in which culture plays an important role as a driving force and initiator. However, we also expect to see this process intermingled with economic activity. First and foremost, I mean tourism, but also the construction sector, the IT sector… I am glad to see that this has been recognised by Rijeka’s entrepreneurs who set up the PartneRI Business Club, which aims to more actively participate in the programmes we are preparing for 2020. It currently numbers around 30 members, but I am pleased to see that they strive to have 2020 members by the year 2020”.

Acting Head of the Primorsko-goranska County Department of Culture, Sports and Technical Culture, Tamara Carević – Baraba, said that it is a widespread opinion in the business world that business generates profits, whereas culture is “just spending”. “But there are numerous examples that show how these two sectors can permeate each other and that investment in culture can bring tangible benefits.” For that reason she warmly welcomed the establishment of the Business Club, and the idea that business donors should support artistic projects to the benefit of the whole community.

The Minister of Culture, Nina Obuljen Koržinek, said that the topic of the conference – diversification of funding and attracting investment in culture – is extremely important in light of the already prominent European trend of reducing public funds for culture.

“Croatia had not felt this trend as much, regardless of the crisis, but that has to do with another trend – that public funds are largely spent on the day-to-day financing of the cultural sector in cities, which is a challenge.

From the Ministry’s point of view, in the last two years the funding of culture from the national budget increased from 0.56 to 0.91 percent, largely through better use of EU funds.

But a public verification of the value of cultural activities is lacking. In the media, it just boils down to who appeared at opening nights. Maybe that’s the reason why the financing of culture by business is also lacking. I think that the European Capital of Culture will be able to achieve a turning point in this respect”, the minister said.

She also reported that the Ministry of Culture is currently working on revising certain parts of the system. “This is a matter of legislative revision (e.g. the part related to the activity of archives, libraries, museums); most probably in autumn the new law on artists and artistic professional activity will be released for public discussion, and following the results of the study of the Institute of Public Finance on tax treatment of culture and art, we will also be conducting consultations with sector representatives and investors in order to make investment in culture more meaningful and stimulating in the sense of taxation.

We have an inconsistent situation regarding VAT and VAT exemption of certain services, where we see a lot of room for improvement. There is unequal treatment of employed and unemployed artists in terms of paying contributions, and the system does not recognise an entire young generation of artists who do not seek classical employment (so-called freelancers, author’s note). We plan to better define all of this through new legislation.

Cultural and creative industries are a different topic: here we have to conduct a detailed analysis of every activity and see the ratios of activities funded and not funded with public money, in order to see which activities need support to attract more private investment”, said Nina Obuljen Koržinek.