April 25, 2013 by Silvana Bolocan
THE CULTURAL EXCEPTION IS NON-NEGOTIABLE!
The 13th of March may become a major turning point in European construction – and a scandalous one.
That was the day the European Commission, under the leadership of Commissionner Karel de Gucht, decided to trample on the cultural exception and adopted a draft negotiation mandate that includes audiovisual and film services into the EU-US trade discussions to start this summer.
Forgotten are the passionate words of President Barroso back in 2005: “on a scale of values, culture comes before the economy”. Gone, too, are President Barroso’s declarations of love for cinema when directors were forced into action to defend the MEDIA program. And what happened to the Commission slogan, “Europe loves cinema”?
A few months before the end of his presidency, we do not understand what mark Mr. Barroso wants to leave on European history. For now, unfortunately, the image of the cultural resignation predominates. He even seems to have forgotten his own lesson from not so long ago: “culture is how we ought to respond to the crisis”.
Let’s be frank: the proposed negotiation mandate is a renunciation. It is a capitulation and a breaking-point.
20 years ago, the common will to support creation and to promote its diversity was forged here in Europe.
Culture is at the very heart of European identity and ideals.
20 years ago, the cultural exception burst onto the international scene, leading to the recognition of a specific status for audiovisual works as they are not just goods like any others and must therefore be excluded from trade negotiations.
20 years ago, thanks to the cultural exception that emerged from the GATS agreement battle, creation and linguistic diversity were granted the right to keep on benefiting from rules aimed at protecting and supporting them.
The result is positive: cultural diversity is now a reality in most places across Europe. It allows for exchanges and mutual understanding and is also a vector for growth and job creation.
The Europe that we love worked hard to help make the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions come true. The Europe that we love further ratified this Convention together with 126 countries from around the world. The Europe that we love is admired across the world because it initiated and supported this great initiative.
With the adoption of the negotiation mandate, which would reduce culture to nothing more than a commodity, the European commission (apart from the three commissioners who voted against it) has abandoned its position in favour of the cultural exception, thereby going against its own objectives and previous commitments, and demonstrating a terrible duplicity.
We refuse this Europe that is ready to get rid of the Convention’s principles, and in particular the principle of States’ cultural sovereignty.
In front of the United States where the entertainment industry is the second-largest source of exports, the liberalisation of the audiovisual and film sector will lead to the destruction of all of what until now protected, promoted and helped develop European cultures. This policy, together with the granting of excessive fiscal advantages to US digital champions, looks strikingly like a conscious desire to bring European culture to its knees.
Those who, in the name of Europe, will have accepted this resignation will be forever guilty in the eyes of history. Cultural diversity must not be just another bargaining tool. It must remain an ambition, a legitimate demand, and a commitment.
It is not too late!
We will keep fighting for Europe’s ability to write its History from the perspective of the diversity of its peoples and cultures; and for European citizens’ ability to find complex and profound responses to today’s challenges.
The signatories, originating in all parts of Europe, solemnly call upon European heads of States to support the exclusion of audiovisual and film services from the EU-US trade negotiations.