I am delighted to have this opportunity to present to you the main themes of culture and media policy during the German Presidency of the Council. Europe is above all the sum of its cultures. The resounding “No” by the French and the Dutch to the draft European Convention must also have implications for politicians dealing with culture: we need to understand culture even more clearly than before as the common heritage of Europe and as an assignment for the future. People will not accept the European Union if they see it just as an economic area and not also and in particular as a community of cultures and values. Unity in cultural diversity is the actual strong point of Europe. And we will only be able to create this Europe if we work together. “Building Europe together” is therefore the motto of the German Presidency of the Council as well. Once when looking towards European unification, François Mitterrand said in his own wily fashion: “You can’t achieve unity if you tread on each other’s toes.”
If we are to prevent this, we need to begin by getting on with each other. Here cultural exchange has an important role to play. The Federal Government is also using the EU Presidency of the Council for such exchange. For example, we have two major exhibitions here in Brussels: the exhibition “Views of Europe”, based on the perception of Europe in German paintings from the 19th century and being opened by the Federal Chancellor, and the exhibition “Visit” in which items from the Federal art collection are being shown.
Ladies and Gentleman,
The main theme of our cultural and media policy programme during the Council Presidency is to take forward the European “Television without Frontiers” Directive. This is also a cultural matter for the aim is to strengthen diversity and maintain the plurality of opinions. The Television Directive is the core of European legal provisions in the audiovisual field. It creates the conditions for the free exchange of television services within the European Union, thereby promoting the development of a European media market. New broadcasting technologies and thus different economic conditions have made it necessary to adjust the Directive further. This revision of the Television Directive will be so vital to the evolution of the audiovisual sector in Europe over the next decade or more.
Its revision therefore requires special care and also a certain amount of time. Against this background, I am very happy to see that Parliament and Council have made great strides forward on the Commission proposal during 2006. Now they need to fully align their positions so that the text can be finalised.
As you know, the issue of so-called paid product placement has, amongst others, been the subject of heated debate not only in the Parliament but also in the Council. Under the original draft, product placement was supposed to be allowed. During our discussions in the EU Council of Ministers we agreed on a compromise tabled by the Finnish Presidency. Product placement is now to be banned in principle in television films and series but every Member State may allow it in national law, subject to certain conditions. I am aware that Parliament sees this in a rather different light. I am convinced that we can bring our views closer together. The difference between our positions is smaller than it looks.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I can reassure you that the German Presidency of the Council will do its utmost to make great strides on this important dossier. In view of the good cooperation between Parliament, Council and Commission to date, I am confident that we can agree on the definitive text in the course of 2007. This is of particular importance to me for the European “Television without Frontiers” Directive is also a means of disseminating cultural policy. It will help sufficient account to be taken of the diversity of cultures and opinions in Europe through television programmes as well. I would like to discuss this topic with my European Ministerial colleagues during an informal meeting in February 2007 at the Berlin Film Festival. There will be further negotiations on the Television Directive in May 2007 at the Council meeting of Ministers for Culture in Brussels. It may help a little in establishing the cultural basis on which European unification is built overall.
A second main theme of the cultural and media policy programme of the German Presidency of the Council is the great potential of the Economy of Culture for Europe. The debate on the issue was initiated under the Austrian and Finnish Presidencies, and the German Presidency intends to take it further forward. We now have on the table an extensive study on the Economy of Culture, which was prepared for the Commission and released in late October 2006, on which to base our work. We must ask ourselves what contribution cultural activities can make to European growth and competitiveness in the world. The European economy also needs a cultural foundation if it is to be successful in the long term. Culture and the economy are not mutually exclusive, as is unfortunately asserted from time to time. It is often overlooked that the economy of culture and the creative industries are economic branches with the highest rates of growth in Europe. Under certain conditions they may even prove to be job motors.
Unfortunately scant or no attention at all is paid in the drafting of the Lisbon strategy to the cultural creative potential of Europe. Precisely with this view in mind, keeping Europe as one of the most competitive regions in the world, we must not forget the connection between culture and the economy. It is high time that we put a long held prejudice to one side, i.e. the view that culture always costs money. In fact culture also brings in money. We will therefore discuss the subject of the Economy of Culture for example at a specialist seminar on culture, economy and tourism at the end of May 2007 in Hamburg and also during the abovementioned informal Ministerial meeting at the Berlin Film Festival. The Economy of Culture will also be on the agenda for the Council meeting in May 2007.
The German Presidency is awaiting with interest the forthcoming Commission Communication on Culture in Europe, which should be released in the weeks to come. This Communication should be two-pronged: developing active European citizenship and the role of creativity in enhancing the competitive edge of Europe. We are confident that our discussions in Council on the Economy of Culture will feed into this Communication. We also intend to prepare the ground for the adoption of a new Work Plan for Culture in the second semester.
Ladies and Gentleman,
Apart from the major topics of the Television Directive and the Economy of Culture, the German Presidency of the Council will also take forward the creation of the European digital library. The planned digital library is of major significance in cultural policy terms. It facilitates access for everyone in the EU States to the cultural heritage of Europe and thus promotes knowledge of our common cultural roots. It therefore contributes to the creation of a European identity without which European integration cannot progress successfully.
Another subject we will be taking up is the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. As you know, the Community and those Member States that had completed their internal procedures ratified the Convention on 18 December 2006, thereby reaching the threshold of thirty Parties that will allow for the entry into force of the Convention on 18 March 2007. The Presidency intends to prepare for the implementation of the Convention. It is expected that the first Conference of Parties should take place in the autumn of this year. And as early as 26 to 28 April we will be holding a Conference on cultural diversity in Essen under the motto “Bringing the UNESCO Convention to life".
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You are all aware how important this UNESCO Convention is specifically for us Europeans. European unification can only be unity in diversity. The German Presidency of the Council also declares its support for this. Europe namely derives its strength from cultural diversity. At the beginning of my speech I quoted François Mitterrand. At the close allow me to quote the man together with whom Mitterrand achieved much for Europe, Helmut Kohl. On one occasion the German former Federal Chancellor remarked on the relationship between European unification and national culture: “The aim of Europe is not to dissolve national characteristics in a melting pot. It is just the opposite.” I think we can all subscribe to this. For it is only through European unification that the national cultures of Europe will survive and prosper in a globalised world. The German Presidency of the Council will engage all its efforts to enable Europe to move resolutely forward on the road to unification. Culture is an important key in this connection. I therefore look forward to working with your Committee and thank you for your attention.