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Culture and Audiovisual Media


The European Union promotes culture in accordance with the subsidiarity principle, which means that the Community only takes action “if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States” (Article 5 of the EC Treaty). The purpose of this provision is to ensure that EU activities in the area of culture do not impinge on national culture policies.

Three important objectives of Community activities in the area of culture are:

  • to contribute to the development of the Member States' cultures, while respecting their national and regional diversity and, at the same time, highlighting their common cultural heritage
  • to promote contemporary artistic and literary creation, including in the audiovisual sector
  • to foster cooperation between Member States and non-member countries, as well as international organisations.

Article 151(4) of the EC Treaty requires the European Union to take cultural aspects into account in its activities in other policy areas (culture compatibility clause). This means that the EU should also take the cultural dimension into account, for instance, in its decisions in economic matters, whereby it is essentially a matter for the political actors to ensure that EU decisions are “culturally compatible”.

Culture 2007

From 2007, “Culture 2007” will replace “Culture 2000”, the current EU culture programme for the promotion of artistic and cultural activities with a European dimension. The aim is to contribute to the development of a European identity by expanding cultural cooperation in Europe. “Culture 2007” will seek to create a coherent, global and complete tool for multilateral cultural cooperation in Europe.

“Culture 2007” is set to receive a budget of EUR 408 million and will enter into force on 1 January 2007 for seven years (2007-2013). Article 151 of the EC Treaty (Culture Article) and Article 251 of the EC Treaty (codecision procedure) are the legal basis.

The priorities will be to

  • promote the mobility of artists and works of art and support intercultural dialogue
  • open up the programme to all cultural sectors
  • involve the Western Balkan countries
  • simplify administration

The main changes involve supporting

  • organisations of European cultural interest which network cultural institutions or play the role of “ambassador of culture”
  • analyses and studies in the area of cultural cooperation

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

The European Commission submitted the legislative proposal for “Culture 2007” in July 2004. Negotiations were launched under the Dutch Presidency.

The first reading in the European Parliament was during the plenary session of 24 to 27 October 2005. In mid-November 2005, the UK Presidency reached an agreement on content in the Culture Council that took account of the opinion of the European Parliament (partial political agreement).

Political agreement on "Culture 2007" was reached at the Council meeting on 18 May 2006.

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European capital of culture

The “European capital of culture” project is a Community action which stemmed from an initiative of the Greek Minister for Culture Melina Mercouri in 1985. The “European capital of culture” aims to showcase the richness and diversity of European cultures and illustrate their common features, and at the same time contribute to bringing the peoples of Europe together.

In view of the symbolic importance of the “European capital of culture”, the original decision was revised for the first time in 2005 as a result of enlargement, so that from 2009 a city from an “old” and a “new” Member State can be jointly nominated as “European capitals of culture”. Linz in Austria and Vilnius in Lithuania will be the joint Capital of Culture 2009.

In May 2005, the European Commission submitted the second proposal to revise the “European capital of culture” project on the basis of a European Parliament initiative.

The main changes include:

  • strengthening the competitive element: a competition is to be held at national level among several cities that have shown interest
  • increased support will help the applicant cities in their planning to achieve the European goals.

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

In May 2005, the European Commission proposal was submitted to the Council and the European Parliament for approval. Initial discussions of the Commission's proposal at committee level have shown that there are unlikely to be major differences of opinion. The rather ponderous and complicated selection procedure came in for particular criticism.

In close cooperation with the European Parliament, the Austrian Presidency succeeded in achieving "agreement at first reading". The text is currently under examination by the lawyer-linguists and should soon be adopted by the Council as an A-item.

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Intercultural dialogue

The “Culture 2007” programme is geared to cross-border cultural cooperation. Intercultural dialogue is an objective of the programme, in addition to promoting the mobility of people working in the cultural sector and supporting the transnational circulation of works of art.

In order to indicate the way forward, the European Commission is planning to declare 2008 the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. The Commission perceives intercultural dialogue as an effective complement to diplomacy and a contribution towards conflict prevention. In future, it could also play a central role in the EU’s new neighbourhood policy.

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

The European Commission proposal was submitted in October 2005. The debate from January to April was structured and progress was made in agreeing the content in the Council working group. On 18 May 2006 the Council reached agreement on budgetary aspects and content and - pending the opinion of the European Parliament - adopted a "general approach".

The European Parliament delivered its opinion at the beginning of June 2006. Discussion of the proposed amendments will begin under the Austrian Presidency. It will fall to the Finnish Presidency to conclude the dossier.

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Citizens for Europe

The “Citizens for Europe” programme (2007-2013) is intended to replace the Community’s first action programme (“Civic Participation”), which expires at the end of 2006.

The programme is designed to promote active citizenship, which puts citizens in the centre and offers them the opportunity to fully assume their responsibility as European citizens. It also aims to bridge the gap between the citizens of Europe and European institutions.

Specific programme aims include improving the mutual knowledge of the culture and history of the European peoples through intercultural dialogue and bringing our common heritage to the fore.

The “Citizens for Europe” programme will support in particular town-twinning, European public policy research organisations and high-visibility events (“Together for Europe”.

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

In April 2005, the European Commission proposal was submitted to the European Parliament and the Council for scrutiny. Most Member States welcomed the programme. The only criticism raised concerned the designation of certain organisations in the programme.

The Austrian Presidency had the task of clarifying the content issues (partial political agreement) between the European Parliament and the Council. During the discussions in the Council working group, agreement was reached on a compromise package proposed by the Presidency (nine organisations are to receive direct grants for a period of three years and will then have to compete for financial support in a tendering procedure). As a result, the Council adopted the political agreement on 18 May. In future, the programme will be called "Europe for citizens" to reflect its content.

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Work Plan for Cooperation in the area of Culture 2005-2006

The Work Plan for Culture 2005-2006 (Resolution 13839/04) was adopted during the second half of 2004 under the Dutch Presidency. This plan set out five priorities: contribution of the cultural sector to achieving the goals of the Lisbon Strategy, digitisation of the cultural heritage, expansion of the culture portal and the mobility of artists and art collections. The work plan is particularly important to Austria as the Austrian Presidency, together with Luxembourg, the UK and Finland, is responsible for its implementation. This “rolling agenda” therefore calls for ongoing coordination work among the four countries.

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

  • Lisbon Strategy

In respect of the Lisbon Strategy, the work plan provides for a policy paper - based on a study carried out by the European Commission - to be submitted to the European Council during the first six months of 2006. This paper will contain recommendations for targeted measures to enhance the contribution of the cultural industries to achieving the Lisbon goals in terms of growth, employment and cohesion in Europe. The aim is to integrate the content industry more fully in this process as the centrepiece of the information and knowledge-based society.

Contrary to the original plan, the Commission's study will not be ready until October 2006. For Austria, this means that preparation of the policy paper can begin on the basis of an interim report drafted by the Commission. It will fall to the Finnish Presidency to finalise the paper.

In addition to the European Commission study, the Luxembourg and UK Presidencies have already held expert seminars on promoting the culture industry. An event on the “Creative Economy” which focused on intellectual property was recently held in London.

Austria followed up these activities with an expert conference on “Content for Competitiveness – Strengthening the European Creative Industries in the Light of the i2010 Strategy” (Hofburg, 2-3 March 2006) www.contentconference.at. The aim of the conference was to examine the Community legal measures and general conditions for production and marketing of content (content industry). This conference illustrated the importance of content as a producer of “European added value”.

After the conference, an exchange of views took place in the Council on 18 May, which clearly showed that the theme of "content and creative industries" is of key importance and should be followed up. The need for a uniform European content policy became particularly apparent.

  • Digitising the cultural heritage

The ministers of the Member States have agreed on a coordinated approach to digitisation. The goal is to provide citizens with unrestricted, sustainable and reliable digital access to the European cultural heritage. To this end, an (informal) National Representatives Group (NRG) was set up, whose responsibility – under the overall management of the Dutch, Luxembourg and UK Presidencies – was to prepare a New Dynamic Action Plan. The plan was adopted in the second half of 2005 under the UK Presidency.

The Austrian Presidency will begin to implement the new action plan. Long-term archiving will be the main theme of an expert conference entitled “An Expedition to European Digital Cultural Heritage - Collecting, Connecting, and Conserving?” (Salzburg, 21-22 June 2006), which will discuss existing actions in the area of digitisation, improving citizens’ access to their cultural assets, and the need for strategies for long-term archiving.

  • Mobility of works of art, collections and exhibitions

Under the Dutch Presidency, the EU Culture Ministers agreed measures in November 2004 to improve exchanges of works of art.

As a first step, a committee of museum experts was set up in the first half of 2005. The experts will identify specific need for action in areas such as insurance and registration of works of art and the establishment of general standards for loan administration or digitisation.

An action plan based on the expert report will be drawn up as a second step with the involvement of the European Commission and the Council. The United Kingdom, Austria and Finland will each tackle specific themes. The plan should be finalised in the second half of 2006.

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Media 2007

The MEDIA programme is the EU programme to promote the audiovisual sector in Europe. It is designed to enhance the competitiveness of the European film and television industry, the distribution of European works and the promotion of cultural diversity in Europe. From 2007 MEDIA 2007 will replace the current MEDIA Plus and MEDIA Training programmes. The futrue support programme will run for a period of seven years and have an overall budget of EUR 755 million.

The main priorities of the MEDIA 2007 programme are:

  • continue to concentrate support on the pre- and post-production phase (training/development – distribution/promotion);
  • integrate the i2i audiovisual programme (subsidies for indirect costs);
  • follow and support market developments with regard to digitisation;
  • EU participation in the European Audiovisual Observatory (responsible for collecting and disseminating information on the audiovisual industry in Europe);
  • simplify administration: simplification of application procedures and more transparency in the selection processes

Compared with the current MEDIA Plus and MEDIA Training programmes, a number of changes are envisaged in MEDIA 2007, such as mobility grants for film students, support to broadcasters for synchronisation and subtitling of European works and support for the production and issue of promotion kits and film catalogues in digital form.

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

The European Commission submitted a proposal for “MEDIA 2007” in July 2004. The negotiations on the programme began under the Dutch Presidency. Following the agreement on the EU budget 2007-2013, the Council continued and successfully concluded the negotiations on "Media 2007" with Austria in the chair. In particular, the Austrian Presidency succeeded in achieving unanimous agreement among Member States on the allocation of the budget to the individual actions. In addition, the Presidency worked to obtain the support of the European Parliament for the compormise reached in the Council. The political agreement on "Media 2007" was adopted by the Council on 18 May 2007.

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Revision of the “Television without Frontiers” Directive

The “Television without Frontiers” Directive, which constitutes the regulatory framework for the free movement of television broadcasting services within the Union and thus promotes the development of a European market for television broadcasting services and related activities (e.g. television advertising, production of audiovisual programmes), is to be adapted to changes in the market and technology.

The European Commission adopted a proposal for the revision of the “Television without Frontiers” Directive on 13 December 2005. During the Austrian Presidency, all the provisions of the proposal were analysed with the Member States and the European Commisison.

This analysis included a comprehensive examination of the definitions and their effects on the other provisions. In particular, the nature and scope of the basic rules applicable to all services were discussed in detail. Another central theme of the discussion was the proposed new provisions on advertising (including the issue of product placement).

Presidency progress report

The Austrian Presidency submitted the Commission's proposal for an amendment to an initial in-depth examination in the Council. The results were presented in the Culture Council on 18 May 2006 in the form of a progress report, which generated a comprehensive policy debate among the Culture and Media Ministers. The progress report notes the basic positions of the Member States and contains clarifications of specific points by the European Commission.

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Recommendation on protection of minors

The first Council recommendation on protection of minors was adopted in 1998 (Protection of minors and human dignity in the audiovisual and information services, 98/560/EC). This recommendation was the first legal instrument governing the content of audiovisual and information services and covered all audiovisual sectors. In April 2004, the European Commission presented a proposal for a recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity and the right of reply in relation to the competitiveness of the European audiovisual and information services industry.

This proposal focussed in particular on the following areas:

  • media competence
  • assessment and classification of audiovisual content
  • action to combat discrimination in all media
  • right of reply in the media

The first reading in the European Parliament took place in September 2005. A revised Commission proposal, which took account of Parliament’s proposed amendments, was presented in January.

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

Following thorough discussion in the Council and intensive contacts with the European Parliament, the Austrian Presidency produced a compromise text whch brought the diverging positions closer together. This incorporated most of Parliament's proposed amendments. A list of examples of possible actions implementing the recommendation was to a large extent included as an annex. The Council reached political agreement on this compromise.

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UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

On 20 October 2005, the UNESCO General Conference adopted by a large majority the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

In December 2005, the European Commission presented a proposal for a Council decision to enable the Community to become a party to the Convention. The Convention will enter into force when it has been ratified by 30 countries.

The purpose of this Convention is to give all countries the right to take measures in the framework of their national culture policy to produce, disseminate and protect diverse cultural goods and services. In doing so, they must strike a balance between their sovereign rights and the rules of international cooperation.

The UNESCO Convention has the following main objectives

  • to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions;
  • to create the conditions for cultures to flourish and to freely interact in a mutually beneficial manner;
  • to encourage dialogue among cultures with a view to ensuring wider and balanced cultural exchanges in the world in favour of intercultural respect and a culture of peace;
  • to foster interculturality and promote respect for the diversity of cultural expressions and raise awareness of its value;
  • to give recognition to the distinctive nature of cultural activities, goods and services as vehicles of identity, values and meaning;
  • to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity.

Activities during the Austrian Presidency

The next step is to implement the Convention. The European Commission submitted a proposal for a Council decision on ratification of the Convention on 21 December 2005. Discussions began in the Council during the Austrian Presidency.

On 18 May the Council adopted the decision on ratification of the Convention by the Community.

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Date: 20.06.2006