Last week the European Parliament made a very strong statement. By a large majority they sent a clear message to the Council and the European Commission: “Europe’s cultural exception is not negotiable”.
The line of the Commission is that everything needs to be on the table for the EU-US Free Trade Agreement (TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, for those who love acronyms and twitter hashtags) to maximise its potential. If the Europeans start excluding this and that, then so will the Americans. In short, the Commission is saying:
“Everything needs to be on the table but don’t worry, we won’t actually negotiate everything. The cultural exception definitely won’t be negotiated. Honest.”
One of the analogies that has been used is that of a game of cards and “having the best hand”. Within such an analogy it strikes me that cultural diversity is more like the house that you are ready to gamble. If you don’t want to lose it, then you shouldn’t put it on the table.
Europe’s diversity is one of its key assets. As Harvey Weinstein said while defending the cultural exception in Cannes “Great business is by being different”. But it comes with its own challenges. Our cultural works don’t have automatic access to large markets. The subject matter can even be very specific to a particular country or culture, making it difficult for a film to travel. Subtitling is a minimum for works to cross borders and some countries won’t go for anything less than full dubbing. But their is a clear evolution. The breakthrough of European TV productions across Europe and beyond is proof that the complex support systems we have built are maturing.
If you want to maintain Europe’s ability to create cultural works it can shout about – sign the film-makers’ petition.
The Council votes on the negotiating mandate to be given to the Commission on the 14th June. We need to keep the pressure on.