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Brussels, 18 November 2010
Results of EU Culture Council, Brussels, 18 November
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, warmly welcomed the adoption by the EU's Council of Culture Ministers of the EU Culture work plan for 2011-2014. For her part, Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, underlined to Ministers the very considerable opportunities new technologies can bring to the creative and content industries, as identified in the Digital Agenda for Europe. The Reflection Group ('Comité des Sages') on bringing Europe's cultural heritage online, who are due to finalise their report at the beginning of 2011, held an exchange of views over lunch with Ministers, Commissioner Vassiliou and Vice-President Kroes. The Council adopted conclusions on European film heritage, on European cinema in the digital era and on the role of culture in combating poverty and social exclusion.
Culture Work Plan
Commissioner Vassiliou underlined that the EU Culture work plan for 2011-2014 adopted by the Council will, "together with our agenda on culture, form the basis for our future work. This plan will focus on strengthening the capacity of the cultural and creative sector and making the most of culture's rich contribution to European economy and society. Combined efforts by Member States and the Commission are essential if the full potential of the work plan is to be reached."
Commissioner Vassiliou congratulated Mons on its designation as European Capital of Culture in 2015. "The European Capitals of Culture are a unique opportunity for cities to reap benefits in cultural, social and economic terms and to raise their visibility and profile on an international scale", she commented.
Vice-President Kroes and Commissioner Vassiliou addressed the priority actions identified by the EU's Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581 MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200) to help the cultural and audiovisual sectors in Europe seize the opportunities of new technologies. They urged Ministers to support specific actions on Intellectual Property Rights, including collective rights management and solutions to orphan works, online distribution of audiovisual works and other creative content, the promotion of cultural and creative industries and the digitisation of cinema. Commissioner Vassiliou underlined that "Digital technologies have an important role to play in increasing the competitiveness of the European film industry".
Vice-President Kroes stressed that "the digital age is not a threat for culture and creation, but rather an opportunity" and appealed to Ministers to actively support the implementation of the Digital Agenda in all its aspects. Kroes gave the example of the roll-out of broadband networks for all by 2013 and of fast and ultrafast broadband by 2020 (see IP/10/1142), which inter alia requires that there is sufficient radio spectrum made available for wireless broadband (see MEMO/10/425). "Broadband will open up tremendous new opportunities for the distribution of cultural and audiovisual works to the benefit of Europe's citizens, artists and authors", Kroes stressed.
The Council adopted conclusions endorsing the Commission's recent papers on the opportunities and challenges for European Cinema (IP/10/1168) and on European film heritage, including the challenges of the digital era (IP/10/894). Commissioner Vassiliou thanked Member States and the Belgian Presidency for their support for the Commission's policy on digitisation of cinema, in particular the €4 million support mechanism foreseen within the MEDIA programme that will start in 2011. Vassiliou also urged Member States to use the EU's Structural Funds to the full for this purpose. Vice-President Kroes welcomed the Council conclusions "because to build a rich film heritage for this and future generations, our cultural institutions need money and they need a favourable legal framework". Kroes underlined to Ministers that the rules must be clarified to bring this legal certainty and that "Member States must work to ensure that film heritage is fully integrated in their film policy and that cultural and educational uses are facilitated for funded films at regional and national level."
The Reflection Group ('Comité des Sages') on bringing Europe's cultural heritage online, set up in April 2010 (IP/10/456), briefed Ministers, Commissioner Vassiliou and Commission Vice-President Kroes about the work it has done so far, including the results of the public consultation which ran between August and September 2010 (IP/10/1055) and the public hearing which took place on 28 October 2010. There are still serious legal obstacles that stand in the way of more widespread digitisation of works, not just for material that is still in copyright, but also for the so-called orphan works (whose right holders are unknown). The report is due at the beginning of 2011.
Kroes commented "Digitising, making available online and preserving our cultural heritage, is a huge challenge for our times. One key instrument to reach this goal is to continue our collective support to the European portal Europeana, the web portal of Europe's libraries, museums and archives." Kroes urged the 'Comité des Sages' to come up with ambitious recommendations to, inter alia, make it easier for cultural institutions to digitise their collections and give access to them through Europeana (see IP/10/1524 and MEMO/10/586). Commissioner Vassiliou noted that "there must be a good balance between giving full access for citizens to cultural content and the need to protect the rights of the creators".
Role of culture in combating poverty and social exclusion
The Council adopted conclusions that highlight the enormous social and economic benefits of culture-based projects. Commissioner Vassiliou commented that "These projects encourage collaboration across policy borders and I urged Member States and regions to incorporate culture into their social cohesion strategies. I am convinced that these conclusions will become a key reference for future initiatives on mobilising culture as a resource to fight against social inequality."
European Heritage Label
The Council took stock of progress report on establishing the European Heritage Label as an EU initiative. The label would set up an independent panel to select sites that celebrate and symbolize European integration, ideals and history. It is hoped the new-look label will come into effect in 2011 or 2012 (see IP/10/250). Commissioner Vassiliou commented "I am confident that the Label will be a reality very soon and will play a key role in safeguarding our heritage."
To find out more:
Website of Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
Website of Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda