The sleepy days of summer are well and truly over, and Culture Action Europe is jumping back into the autumn agenda with renewed energy and enthusiasm! Our successful re-brand has given us a renewed determination to tackle the cultural challenges that the coming years will bring. As a result we are working on a programme for the coming years; playing an active role in the EU’s new structured dialogue platforms, engaging with the elections to the European Parliament in 2009 and much more.
This edition of the Culture Action Europe newsletter reflects the variety and range of events and issues that we are following at present. It’s a packed agenda, with many members’ events also taking place over the autumn period.
Right now, the Culture Action office is putting its energies into the final stages of preparation for our 16th Annual Conference in Marseilles. It is going to be challenging and great fun to meet in the Mediterranean city, which has just been confirmed last week as European Capital of Culture for 2013, together with Košice in Slovakia. Please visit the conference website and join us there to make it our best event ever.
CULTURE ACTION EUROPE 2008 CONFERENCE
Scène ouverte – European Cultural cooperation across borders
Marseilles, 23-25 October 2008
Our 2008 conference will focus on two issues featuring high up on the European cultural agenda: the place of culture in the external relations of the EU – with a special emphasis on the Euro-Mediterranean area – and the involvement of civil society, and thus of cultural actors, in the development of European policies. By addressing those issues, our ambition remains the same: to continue providing cultural operators with a common arena in which they can reflect on the European project, identify their interests and organise their political voice. Join us in Marseilles for two days of reflection, debate and action!
For more info and to register, visit the conference website.
In June 2008 the Irish voted ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty by 53 to 47%, a very convincing margin. We include in this newsletter an overview of the current situation for two reasons. Firstly because the Treaty contained a number of modifications that might impact on the cultural sector. Secondly, the future of the European Union is bound up with the response to the Irish No, and this will have a longer-term impact on the sector’s interests and activities in Europe. To find out more about what it all might mean for your organisation, read on.
This is not the place to debate whether the Lisbon Treaty was the equivalent of a good spring clean of the Union’s administrative attic, or the first step towards an inexorable Super State but we can try to explain the current situation and the likely impact on the cultural sector.
A bit of history first. Lisbon is part of an ongoing process of treaty amendment. Article 48 of the European Union Treaty states that any Member State or the Commission may submit proposals for amending the treaties (The most important Amending treaties have been the Single European Act (1986), the Treaty on European Union (1992), the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and the Treaty of Nice (2001).) via an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). As most informed observers will be aware, the Treaty of Lisbon must be ratified by all Member States in order to enter into force. All European States - except one - decided to deal with the ratification of the Treaty via the National elected parliaments; only Ireland was constitutionally obliged to submit to a referendum.
To the surprise of no one (except it seems Ireland’s politicians), the Treaty was rejected. There is no space here to explain why - as was memorably said on French radio after the Irish No: ‘There wasn’t one Irish no, there were hundreds of different Irish No’s’, most of them contradictory’. The rejection has thrown a spanner in Europe’s administrative machinery and arguably weakened Europe’s voice on the international stage at a moment of great tension and uncertainty. The Treaty is thus in abeyance, although the process of ratification continues in other countries. To date Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic are in the middle of various complex stages of ratification (or not).
The main changes in the Lisbon Treaty deal with the extension of Qualified Majority Voting, the number of Commissioners, and the twin issues of a Foreign Minister for Europe in international negotiations plus a longer term for the President of the European Council, which currently rotates every six months. These are both matters of bureaucratic convenience (on which it is hard to run a referendum), but also issues of enormous, longer-term political importance, since they go to the heart of what kind of European (and by extension what kind of world) order we want.
What next for Europe and Lisbon?
There are a number of possible options for the future of the Treaty.
1. The countries that have not yet ratified the Treaty might carry on despite the No vote. By the time that process ends, a solution for the Irish "exception" might have been negotiated, with more Irish opt-outs and guarantees on sensitive issues such as neutrality.
2. The EU might carry on as before. The "streamlining" changes, such as the slimmed-down Commission, the new job of EU president and the new post of foreign policy chief, would be put on hold, with negotiations on a replacement Treaty some time in the future.
3. The Lisbon Treaty could be scrapped and a new one created, cherry-picking key parts and repackaging them in a shorter, more comprehensible version. Ireland would then hold another referendum.
4. Countries keen on further EU integration could form an informal club inside the EU and a "two-tier" Europe would develop. That idea has been mooted by Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Ireland, the UK and a few other countries, which prefer a looser union.
Does it matter to the arts?
The Lisbon Treaty contains a couple of modifications of interest to the cultural sector. Remember, the Maastricht Treaty gave cultural policy its own legal basis for the first time, under article 151, which provides a basis for action aimed at ‘encouraging, supporting and supplementing the activities of the Member States’, while respecting national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing our common cultural heritage to the fore. BUT the principles for intervention by the EU in the field of culture are complementarity and subsidiarity. Any act of harmonisation of legal and regulatory provisions of the Member States is excluded from the scope of Article 151. Also under Maastricht, all cultural measures are agreed by co-decision procedure with unanimity in Council.
Lisbon changes a few things.
1. Firstly, and in the view of Culture Action Europe most importantly, decision making in culture would be treated under Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) as opposed to the current unanimous vote. Obviously this would serve to speed up decision-making processes, but might also lead to a progressive weakening of national veto in cultural affairs, a very sensitive point. But note, there is still no possibility of harmonisation or regulation in the area, so the QMV will apply principally to the format and scope of the funding programmes. Other QMV areas that might possibly have a longer term impact on cultural policy would include Tourism, Setting up a Business, Self employment access rights, Structural and Cohesion funds, Social Security and Intellectual Property rights.
2. A new point was added to the Preamble, specifying that the Treaty draws:
“INSPIRATION from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law, (…)”
3. More importantly the Second article, at the 3rd paragraph now states that the European Union:
“shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.”
This is important and innovative because none of the earlier treaties included any reference to cultural diversity.
4. The section named “Categories and areas of the Union’s competence”, lists various actions that the EU can take. Here the Treaty enunciates that culture is one of these areas.
5. Article 167 strengthens the role of the European Parliament in the decision process concerning cultural matters. It specifies that:
“The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251 and after consulting the Committee of the Regions, shall adopt incentive measures, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States. The Council, on a proposal from the Commission shall adopt recommendations.
6. Article 256 a, §2 on the Economic and Social Committee states that:
“The Committee shall consist of representatives of organisations of employers, of the employed, and of other parties representative of civil society, notably in socio-economic, civic, professional and cultural areas. ”
Note that this is the first reference to the cultural organisations as members of civil society in the text. This maybe an important conceptual change for the future.
Culture Action Europe has, broadly speaking, been in favour of the proposed changes, and is only critical that they do not go far enough. Importantly majority voting has been proposed in the cultural field in order to simplify decision making, which the sector itself usually complains is slow, confusing and bureaucratic. Additionally, QMV would undoubtedly make it easier to increase the size of the cultural budget in the future. But nevertheless, the primacy of national policy remains as a corner stone of cultural action in Europe.
European Agenda for Culture
The Member States working groups, on one hand, and of the cultural sector, on the other, have had their very first meetings since the pre-summer official launch of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) and of the the Structured Dialogue platforms. Even if the working themes of the OMC and those of civil society do not always match perfectly, the representatives of the chosen cultural organisations hope that the process will allow them over time to reinforce the voice of the cultural players in Europe and lead to a better recognition of the claims of these actors by European decision makers.
The Council of Ministers endorsed in November 2007 the European Commission’s proposal to use the Open Method of Coordination in the field of cultural policy. A work plan[.pdf] detailing the areas that will be looked at was then adopted by the same Council in May 2008.
Each group will have to provide a mid-term report by July 2009 and a final report in 2010. For more information please see the EC Culture portal.
The ‘Cultural and Creative Industries’ Platform has five sub groups:
For more information and to consult the list of participating organisations, please see the EC Culture portal.
CIVIL SOCIETY PLATFORM FOR INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE
“Rainbow Paper: Intercultural Dialogue – from practice to policy and back”
Ready for endorsement soon
The participative process in which manifold organisations shaped the voice of European civil society for Intercultural Dialogue is about to present its results: The Rainbow Paper will be on-line for endorsement in a few days’ time. It proposes a 5-step path from intercultural challenges to interculturalism and makes 5 sets of recommendations: on educating and building institutional capacity for Intercultural Dialogue, on monitoring for sustained policies, mobilising across boundaries, and resourcing of Intercultural Dialogue. Watch www.rainbowplatform.org!
Also coming up: Platform General Assembly on 11th November in Stockholm
Organisations ready to endorse the Rainbow Paper will be eligible to become members of the Platform as an association - its legal establishment is underway. The first General Assembly will take place on 11th November in Stockholm. The Platform’s work plan for 2009 will be a key agenda point. Save the date!
FRENCH PRESIDENCY OF THE EU
On 21-22 July, the French Minister for Culture and Communication, Christine Albanel, brought her fellow EU ministers together for an informal meeting in Versailles. The main topic discussed on the first day was the expansion of the ‘European Heritage Label’ from the dozen initiating States to all 27 Members States. Ministers also examined possible joint measures to counter illegal trafficking in cultural property and artifacts, which is perceived as a strong threat to the European Heritage. The second day was entirely devoted to audiovisual affairs: mainly the Telecommunications Package and copyright issues.
EUROPEAN CAPITALS OF CULTURE
Slovakia’s first European Capital of Culture will be Košice, the second largest city after the capital, Bratislava. This victory did not benefit Lyon, the French city with which Košice had formed an unprecedented alliance between candidate cities. In the end, it was the famous Mediterranean hub of Marseilles that was selected by the panel a few days later.
Sessions of the 9-10 September 2008
The Parliamentary Committee adopted in September, amongst other documents, an opinion on the 2009 budget. The committee proposed reinforcing the support for intercultural dialogue and artist mobility. Two pilot projects were also put forward: one on support for Roma Culture and one as regards the implementation of the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity. The MEPs also held three public hearings on digital on line content, the current work of the Council of Europe and intercultural education.
Upstream of this procedure are the Parliamentary Committee opinions, which serve to prepare the ground for the Parliament’s first reading. Each Parliamentary Committee elaborates an opinion on the budget lines, which relate to their areas of work. Thus, the Education and Culture Committee gives an opinion on all budgetary provisions relating to culture, education, audiovisual, citizenship, youth and new technologies. This opinion is thereafter sent to the Budget Committee, which gathers together all the opinions of the Committees, examines them and based on these views, often with modifications, elaborates a general budget project, which is discussed and then adopted in Plenary Session. This becomes the First Parliamentary Reading.
The pilot project for artist mobility also continues to receive the support of the MEPs. In effect they requested in their opinion that the third section (the creation of an artists’ mobility fund) be set up in 2009. Additionally, the opinion proposed two further pilot projects for 2009: ‘Cultural Route of Roma Culture and Heritage’ and ‘EU contribution to the UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions’.
However we need to wait for the Budget Committee response before we know if these proposals have been accepted as they may still be changed, adopted or rejected. Results are scheduled for October.
Although the first evaluation of the recommendation adopted by the commission showed evidence of a certain positive effect in the on-line music sector, the speaker chose to underline the devastating effect on cultural diversity. In reality, the recommendation permitted the signing of exclusive contracts with three large European companies dealing with authors’ rights. These contracts tend to privilege the more commercial and profitable musical repertoires and may lead to the disappearance of the smaller organisations that deal with authors’ rights. This phenomenon could have negative repercussions on artist remuneration and independent creators, and indeed be a threat to cultural diversity in Europe. Madame Echerer requested that the recommendation allow for more equitable competition between these companies in order to avoid exclusive contracts. She recognised the importance of opening up the market but she also expressed a hope that this liberalisation might be controlled. The MEPs showed lively interest in the debate while recognising the difficulty of actually legislating in the area. The report will be examined during the next Parliamentary Committee.
The second hearing took place in the framework of an agreement between the Presidents of both the European Parliament and the Assembly of the Council of Europe, which aims to reinforce institutional relations. The CULT committee met with three national parliamentarians who sit on the Committee for Culture, Science and Education of the Assembly of the Council of Europe. The three speakers demonstrated how pertinent recent work in their own committee is to the questions being examined in the European Parliament Committee: these include issues such as cultural heritage, intercultural dialogue, education, media etc. Anne Brasseur, president of the Council of Europe Committee, listed a number of projects currently running in the areas of electronic media, artistic education, the teaching of history in conflict zones, funding for radio etc… The national parliamentarians who sit in the Council of Europe Assembly (as well as the MEPs) expressed their pleasure at this joint initiative for closer collaboration between the two institutions, although from a practical point of view the perspectives for closer collaboration are at best uncertain.
The challenge for Europe is now to apply these good practices elsewhere in Europe. The European Commission has stated an urgent need for Members States to reform their educational systems in depth so that they can thereafter integrate these kinds of practices.
The non-profit sector (i.e. civil society organisations, not for profit bodies, charities and associations, including of course the not for profit cultural sector) is growing in most European countries and as a result employs a considerable number of the national workforce in some EU Member States. Despite this, little is known about its contribution to the economy, and overall European statistics for the sector are still hard to find.
“Financing the EU: where does, could and should the money come from?”
On the 21 May, the Civil Society Contact Group organised in Brussels a NGO lunch debate on the subject of the income sources of the future EU budget. In the context of the EU budget review and the related online public consultation, this debate addressed in an accessible way the central question of resourcing the European project. The Contact Group produced an interesting report on the debate.
sources are being discussed. Claire Roumet, Secretary General of the European Liaison Committee for Social Housing (CECODHAS), spoke about the inequality of provision for the most disadvantaged inherent in consumption based tax revenues (otherwise known as Value Added Tax - VAT) instead of wealth-based taxation. Pendo Maro of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) explained their desire for earmarked environmental taxation. The EEB also proposes to install an Open Method of Coordination (i.e. the best practice exchange and coordination in areas where there is no European competency) in the field of environmental taxation, to respect the great variety of Member State systems.
Cultural organisations might like to note that an improvement to the overall financing of the EU would, in theory, lead to more transparency, and perhaps increased funds for cultural projects. In any case, a better understanding of the financing mechanism of the institutions is an inevitable first step towards a better funding partnership in the future.
Consult the full report of the lunch debate here.
Culture Action Europe will be actively following the campaign for the European Parliament Elections in 2009, in order to influence European policy at its coalface. In the meantime, Euractiv has published a comprehensive policy summary on the European Elections 2009.
Mobility, Dialogue, Participation: Towards Active European Citizenship
The European Civic Forum organised a major event in La Rochelle to bring together citizens and association leaders from all over the European Union. The meeting that gathered almost a thousand citizens and association leaders from the 27 Member States was organised with the support of the European Commission as a high-profile event in the "Europe for Citizens" programme.