The cultural exception
The cultural exception: France is not alone!
France has taken the lead in the fight to defend respect for the cultural exception in the draft free trade agreement with the United States, respect which must in particular be reflected in the exclusion of the whole audiovisual sector from the negotiation mandate.
Some people have thought France is fighting a lonely battle. They are wrong. France is not alone in championing the need to grant culture an exceptional place. On the initiative of the Minister of Culture and Communication, Aurélie Filippetti, the majority of European culture ministers have joined France’s efforts by co-signing a letter addressed to the Irish EU presidency and to the European Commission. The text was signed by the Austrian, Belgian, Bulgarian, Cypriot, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovenian, Slovak and Spanish culture ministers.
In the letter, 14 European states, representing the vast majority of the EU’s population, unequivocally demand, through their culture ministers, that “the EU’s constantly-reaffirmed position – which, both at the World Trade Organization and in bilateral negotiations, has always excluded audiovisual services from any commitment to trade liberalization – should be fully maintained. (…) It is a complete policy of the EU and its member states and it would be compromised if the exclusion we demand were not guaranteed. (…) More broadly, the same is true for our ability to choose and enact our legislation and regulation in the face of technological and economic changes.”
Armed with this support, the Minister of Culture and Communication will firmly uphold this position on Friday 17 May at the meeting of European culture ministers, who will discuss the free trade agreement with the United States.
This initiative is fully consistent with the presentation on 13 May 2013 of the report on Act II of the Cultural Exception: in the face of the changes brought about by digital development, we must adapt our cultural policies and create new tools. In parallel with the effort being undertaken at national level, France is also keen to maintain the European Union’s ability to adapt its policies to digital changes. This is the whole purpose of the exclusion demanded along with our partners. Europe’s general interest is at stake.
Film-makers have clearly understood this and have published an online petition that has already gathered 5,000 signatures, including those of the biggest names in European cinema. On Monday 20 May, at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, the Minister of Culture and Communication will organize a symposium on the theme “Strengthening the cultural exception in tomorrow’s Europe”, with European and American speakers from all backgrounds, to ensure the world of culture and the cinema is heard.
The European Parliament has also taken up the matter: the Committee on International Trade recently adopted a resolution on the draft free trade agreement which also unequivocally demands full respect for the cultural exception.
These stances express a very strong expectation on the part of the EU’s citizens./.