Brussels, 21 June 2012
Internal Market: the Commission acts to ensure that European films are distributed in Catalonia
The European Commission has asked Spain to put an end to the discriminatory rules which prevent the distribution of non-Spanish films. The Commission considers that the legislation in question, the Catalan Law on cinema, is incompatible with the EU rules on the free movement of services (Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
This law requires 50 % of films to be distributed in Catalonia in Catalan (including original, dubbed and sub-titled versions), except for films in Spanish which are exempt from that obligation, which has the effect of making the circulation in Spain of non-Spanish European works more expensive, and therefore more difficult.
The Commission's request to Spain takes the form of a reasoned opinion. The national authorities must notify the Commission within two months that they have put an end to the discriminatory rules. If they fail to do so, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Restriction on the circulation of non-Spanish European films
Catalan Law No 20/2010 on cinema is designed to promote cinema and support the development of choice of Catalan films. Article 18 of the Law obliges distributors to deliver all films distributed in Catalonia with a version in Catalan (dubbed or sub-titled). Although the general objective pursued is completely legitimate, the obligation itself is incompatible with European law because it exempts Spanish films in their original Castilian version and is therefore discriminatory. For the European films concerned, the law entails an additional cost of between EUR 25 000 and EUR 77 000 for dubbing, or between EUR 2 000 and EUR 5 730 for sub-titling, which increases the cost and therefore renders access to the Spanish market more difficult for non-Spanish European films.
The Law provides for a derogation for films distributed in less than 16 copies, but more than half of non-Spanish European films distributed in Catalonia are still affected.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has recognised that national policies pursuing the objective of language promotion are lawful (C-379/87).1 However, it stated that the measures implementing them must fulfil certain conditions in order to be considered justified under the Treaty: they must be proportionate in relation to the aim pursued and must not bring about discrimination against nationals of other Member States.
The benefits of freedom of movement
European films benefit from the principle of free movement enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in the same way as other goods and services. Moreover, their circulation contributes to the objective of greater understanding between European citizens. Accordingly, the MEDIA programme implemented by the European Union2 supports the European audiovisual sector and is intended, inter alia, to ensure better circulation of European films, more diversity and choice for the public, as well as to strengthen the competitiveness of the sector. The European Union has proposed to allot more than EUR 900 million of aid to MEDIA with its new programme ‘Creative Europe’ for the period 2014-2020.
For further information
Latest information on infringement proceedings concerning all Member States:
For more information on infringements, see MEMO/12/464
Judgment in Case C-379/87 Groener  3967, paragraph 19.
Decision No 1718/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 concerning the implementation of a programme of support for the European audiovisual sector (MEDIA 2007), OJ L 327 of 24.11.2006, p. 12.