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European Commission


Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

Cultural diversity and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Council meeting/Brussels

17 May 2013

Remarks by Commissioner Vassiliou during an exchange of views with EU Culture Ministers on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Unfortunately Commissioner De Gucht, who is responsible for this file, could not be present today for this exchange of views. So he asked me to speak on his behalf.

The EU and the US are about to enter into negotiations towards an ambitious trade and investment agreement that would shape the future economic relationship between the world's two most important economic powers. This has the potential to give a powerful boost to the economy on both sides of the Atlantic and send a strong signal of leadership at a time of rapid changes in the world economy.

I will not comment on the mandate itself, which is being discussed and will be agreed in another Council formation, but I welcome the opportunity to clarify some important aspects – and objectives - of the upcoming negotiation. The paper tabled by the Presidency provides a very good frame to do so.

Achieving this agreement is a very high priority. At the same time, it should not impair the ability of the EU and its Member States to preserve and promote cultural diversity. This is an obligation under the EU Treaty, under the acquis, as well as under the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the protection and the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.

The Commission has already flagged the sensitivity of these issues and has expressly acknowledged the particular concerns of the audiovisual sector.

As my colleague Karel De Gucht has stated: the cultural exception is not up for negotiation.

We shall therefore ensure that an agreement with the US does not jeopardize the ability of the EU and its Member States to maintain their commitment to cultural diversity and fully implement and adapt their policies and instruments to the rapid evolutions of the environment.

It is certainly a matter of crucial importance for Member States' policies to be able to secure public services missions, support and promote local talents and cultural industries, implement linguistic diversity and contribute financially to European content production.

It is also important for the EU as a whole, as it has developed over time an audiovisual policy and a European Agenda for culture. In this context, specific instruments have been developed which establish European preferences, both in the MEDIA programme supporting the audiovisual sector and in the regulatory framework for audiovisual and media services.

Building on the Television without Frontier Directive, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive contains measures to promote European audiovisual content both for broadcasting services and new video-on-demand services. The EU must preserve this acquis.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to make it crystal clear that we shall of course maintain the possibility for the implementation of the existing Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS) concerning promotion and access to European works, both through traditional broadcasting services and new on-line services. This covers not only the so-called broadcasting quotas but also other types of measures foreseen for on-demand services such as financial contribution to the production and rights acquisition of European works or share and/or prominence of such works in the catalogue of on-demand services.

Other instruments, sometimes as important, are not up for discussion either: instruments such as public subsidies, financing obligations for broadcasters, taxes on film tickets, co-production agreements, linguistic policy measures, the functioning of channels invested with a public service remit, the existence of stockholding caps in channels and networks, intellectual property rights or specific social-security systems.

EU Member States provide an estimated €3 billion per year in film support: €2 billion in grants and soft loans, as well as €1 billion in tax incentives. None of this is at stake.

Furthermore, we need to think of the future. The Commission adopted on 24 April a Green Paper on "preparing for a fully converged audiovisual world: growth, creation and values". This launches a debate about the adaptation of our instruments, including with respect to the AVMS Directive and the issue of the promotion of European content.

In the upcoming negotiations with the United States, we should not only maintain the EU acquis but also secure the 'policy space' we need, which means our ability to adjust our policies as much as necessary.

Dear Ministers, in short, protecting and promoting cultural diversity in the up-coming trade negotiation with the US means respecting three clear red-lines:

The existing EU policies and instruments and corresponding measures at Member States' level shall not be touched on during negotiations;

The existing national measures to regulate the audiovisual sector and support domestic and European content shall not be touched on during negotiations;

We shall maintain our ability to continue adapting and developing meaningful policies for cultural diversity, both at EU and Member States' level.

With a clear consensus on these three elements, we can both grasp the full benefit of an ambitious trade agreement with the United States and fully respect our European responsibility with respect to cultural diversity.

It will be now up to the Member States in the Trade Foreign Affairs Council to work on the Commission's proposal. The shared objective is clear. We now need an agreement on the best way to secure it in the up-coming negotiation.

I will of course follow with great attention their development from my particular cultural diversity angle.

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