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Brussels, 16 March 2004

Preparing the future and making the most of the past: the Commission adopts a communication on European cinema

Today the Commission adopted a communication that follows on from its Communication of 26 September 2001. This new text extends until 30 June 2007 the regime governing schemes of State aid to the audiovisual sector and proposes the adoption of a European Parliament and Council recommendation on film heritage. This Communication, which was adopted at the suggestion of Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Education and Culture, in agreement with Mario Monti, Member of the European Commission responsible for Competition, is also the result of several months of consultations with the Member States and professionals in the film sector.

"There needs to be a high level of legal security for the making of audiovisual works in Europe", in the words of Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Education and Culture, speaking at a press conference in Brussels. She went on to say: "this is indeed a particularly important sector in cultural terms, playing a major role in the development of a European identity, but it is under considerable external pressure. The European Commission has consulted both the authorities of the Member States and the professionals in this sector, and I have suggested, in agreement with my colleague Mario Monti, that the 2001 regime which was given broad support be extended for three years. Advantage will be taken of this period of time in order to study whether the current regime is fully capable of meeting the future challenges facing the European audiovisual market".

In a Communication1 adopted on 26 September 2001, the Commission explained quite clearly what criteria would be used to assess the schemes of aid for the production of cinematographic and television works (it should be remembered that, in accordance with Article 87(3)(d) of the Treaty, the Commission examines national support schemes, rather than aid provided to particular films).

The Commission thus specified:

  • that a check must first be made to ensure that the conditions of access to the scheme do not conflict with the general principles of legality, for example in terms of discrimination on grounds on nationality;

  • that the specific criteria pertaining to schemes of aid to cinema and TV production (that were set out for the first time in the June 1998 decision on the French aid scheme) must then be met.

This regime was authorised until the end of June 2004, and the Commission has conducted a wide-ranging consultation on it, especially through meetings held in Brussels at the beginning of this year.

The vast majority of national and regional authorities responsible for aid to the audiovisual sector in the Member States and of professionals in this sector stated that they wished to see the 2001 regime maintained, taking the view that it made a positive contribution to the development of cultural activity. This regime has therefore been extended for three years up to 30 June 2007.

The Commission nevertheless wishes to examine whether the current regime can fully cope with the future challenges facing the European audiovisual market. As part of this work, it intends to check whether disproportionate territorialisation requirements (under which, in certain Member States, the granting of aid is contingent upon a significant proportion of a film's budget being spent in the State providing the support) cause undue fragmentation of the European audiovisual market, for example by creating obstacles to pan-European co-productions. That said, the Commission is of course aware that the lasting presence of the human resources and technical capacity required to produce cultural works in the various Member States is essential for the flourishing of their culture and hence for the cultural diversity that it respects and wishes to promote.

The European Commission will therefore conduct a cultural and economic impact study on the existing aid schemes during this three-year period.

Preservation of film heritage

In its 2001 Communication, the Commission announced that it would examine the situation in the Member States concerning the conservation of the European film heritage. This consultation showed that four fifths of the Member States of the Union have a system of compulsory deposit, either for all film works or for those produced with financial support from the State. Further consultations of the national authorities and professionals in the sector concerned in 2002 and 2004 stressed the importance of this work of conservation. This point was also reaffirmed in two Council Resolutions2 in 2000 and 2003. The European Parliament also stressed, in a 2002 report, the need for compulsory legal deposit of European audiovisual works.

On the basis of the above information, the Commission proposes a Parliament and Council recommendation concerning only cinematographic works and covering all the aspects of the protection of film heritage, especially the cataloguing of works, the creation of databases, the restoration of films, their use for teaching purposes and cooperation between responsible institutions in the sector.

Viviane Reding also announced today that the Cannes film festival would be devoting a day (Tuesday, 18 May) to European cinema, as it did in 2003. The Ministers of Culture of the 25 Member States and representatives of the main European film-making schools, in particular, would be invited to take part in this event and to discuss the question of cinema education in Europe and the need for the mobility of students in this area.

    1  COM (2001) 534 final, 26.9.2001 - see IP/01/1326.

    2  OJ C 193, 11.7.2000 & OJ C 295/5, 5.12.2003.

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