The French minister of culture, Aurélie Filippetti, united her European counterparts to push for more public and private support to reap the benefits of digital technology. EURACTIV France reports.
The issue of American companies’ hegemony over the internet and the cultural technology market came to the fore during the Chaillot Forum in Paris (4-5 April). Organised by minister Filippetti, the goal of the forum was to debate the future of cultural policies in Europe.
The forum gathered fifteen European ministers for culture, plus the European commissioner, Michel Barnier, the European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, and a collection of artists, such as the French-Greek film director Costa-Gavras and the French director Macha MakeÏeff.
The forum, ‘Chaillot Forum – future of culture, future of Europe’, aimed at opening debate on copyright issues and cultural diversity, but also financing and regulation.
In France, the arrival of Netflix has raised concerns. The American provider of on-demand internet streaming media plans to set up European headquarters in Luxembourg in order to bypass French regulation.
Poorly defended cultural “assets”
“Culture is one of Europe’s most important assets, but also one that it fails to defend,” stated Schulz. He also highlighted that the EU’s influence in the cultural sector was “limited”.
According to Schulz, “audio-visual and digital services, structural funds, copyrights, the fight against counterfeiting, all these are cultural policy choices”.
The cultural industry represents 4.5% of EU GDP and approximately 8 million jobs. Despite its significance in the European economy, “the crisis hit the cultural sector hard, budget cuts in the sector were severe”, stated Schulz. A further difficulty in the European cultural sector is access to bank financing.
Schulz’s observation was echoed by the artists invited to the forum. The joint text l’Appel de Chaillot (Call from Chaillot) states: “In too many countries, culture was one of the first victims of budgetary restrictions. Yet, artists and creators contribute fundamentally to the values of European societies as well as their economies. Culture is an important European asset and creates jobs.”
Despite numerous budgetary cuts in member states’ funding for culture, the EU has maintained funding through its programme Creative Europe, which, Schulz claims, “has a budget of €1.46 billion for the next seven years. The finance for culture has increased by 9% for 2014-2019”.
The president of the Parliament and candidate for Commission president highlighted progress in the European cultural sector, including the framework for the diffusion of “orphan works” and the increased transparency of collective rights in Europe, amongst others.
Surprise appearance by François Hollande
François Hollande also made a surprise appearance at the forum. The French president affirmed that in Europe and France, “culture is not an unnecessary expense […] Culture is an opportunity for the European economy, a source of employment and activity.”
In France, the cultural sector accounts for 2% of employment. The minister of culture also insisted on the importance of culture for Europe: “Culture must be recognised as a central issue for Europe”.
François Hollande called for the creation of “European digital leaders” in order to compete with America.
European ministers of culture are in favour of developing a European strategy for culture in the digital age, proposed by Aurélie Filippetti. “France proposed about fifty practical measures to sustain this strategy”, said the minister in a communiqué.
Part of the French propositions is the establishment of a European measure to loan money to the cultural sector with 0% interest rates, measures to sustain European audio-visual creations and reinforced capabilities for the Commission in the cultural sector.
However, the most difficult proposal is to put in place a fiscal policy suitable for the digital transition.