Cultural diversity

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Paris Conference for a Europe of Culture: A true European discussion among artists, intellectuals and cultural officials

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, ministre français de la Culture et de la Communication, March 29, 2005 – 2005/03/29

The Conference for a Europe of Culture will be held in Paris on May 2-3, 2005. The two-day conference will bring together some 800 personalities from the European Union’s 25 countries, including filmmakers, writers, architects, actors, musicians, choreographers, visual artists, intellectuals, European ministers of culture, and representatives from professional organizations and institutions “with a view to providing the emerging political Europe with a true cultural ambition.” The Paris conference is a follow-up to the conference held in Berlin on November 26-27, 2004, entitled “A Soul for Europe.”

The Conference, which is part of a European discussion launched in concert by several Member States, aims to mobilize European political officials in an exceptional institutional context. Thus, in order to continue the analysis undertaken during the Berlin conference, the French government has organized this “true European discussion among, artists, intellectuals, and cultural officials, which will result in concrete initiatives to foster the growth of Europe’s cultural influence.” The discussions will be based on four workshops, which will analyze the following topics in an effort to establish concrete proposals: cultural heritage and tourism; the film and audiovisual industries; literature, languages and translation; theatre, music and dance. The workshops will be broken down into four half-day discussions: a discussion by philosophers, writers and historians on the role of culture as the foundation of the European concept and identity; a discussion of priorities for action within the EU; a discussion of the proximity and diversity of the different European cultures; and a discussion among artists, intellectuals and government officials based on the appeal launched in June 2004 by some 100 artists “for a Europe founded on culture.” In addition to the 500 artists and intellectuals from all other Member States of European Union, and from every discipline and form of expression, the conference will also be attended by the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission, all ministers of culture of EU, members of the Commissions in question (Mr. Figel, Mrs.Reding), as well as several European and national parliament members.

The Paris Conference, like the Berlin Conference, will be followed by a meeting in Budapest (Hungary) November 17-19, 2005. In addition, Spain and Poland will examine the possibility of continuing these initiatives in the spring and fall of 2006 in order to maintain this momentum. In this regard, Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres states, “This corresponds to my beliefs and stems from an analysis of the situation in the Europe being built, one that is shared by the President of the Republic, as well as the Federal Chancellor and the President of the European Commission. Europe needs to make culture a central focus of its priorities and action. Because culture is a foundation of the European identity, because it brings Europeans together in a single community of values, and because culture is an asset in international economic competition in terms of job creation (careers in tourism, cultural heritage and cultural industries), appeal (corporations, tourists, and students) and capacity for innovation.” He stresses that the draft European Constitution is a step forward for culture as it opens up new areas for action which any countries that value culture must be prepared for.

The Minister notes that the danger of creating a uniform culture is not a myth: 85% of movie theatre tickets sold in the world are for films produced in Hollywood; the global market share of European films in the European Union dropped from 27.8% in 2001 to 25.7% in 2003, while that of American films rose from 70.1% in 2002 to 72.1% in 2003; 50% of television dramas broadcast in Europe are made in the United States, with the percentage reaching as high as 67% in Italy; 70% of legal music recordings sold in the world are produced by two large groups; 9 out of the 10 most translated writers in the world are English language writers. This is why, the Minister stresses, France is among the most ardent supporters of the Convention on Cultural Diversity being negotiated at UNESCO. With regard to negotiations at the WTO, as well as internal policies of the EU, the draft aims to guarantee the right of States to carry out policies to support cultural activities in the name of the unique nature of artistic and intellectual works, which cannot be considered ordinary merchandise. The European Commission entered into these negotiations with France’s support and received the mandate of the Council of Ministers in December 2004. “It is important to examine, along with cultural professionals, the consequences that we will be able to use in internal European affairs that are gained at UNESCO, on the operation of the internal market and competition. This is the purpose of the Charter for a Europe of Culture,” the Minister states. [05-08]