A meeting of the Education, Youth and Culture Council was held on 20 and 21 November. The Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, represented the UK for the cultural and audiovisual agenda items taken on the morning of 20 November.
The Council adopted the conclusions on a new European heritage label. A number of member states welcomed the new label as adding value to existing initiatives such as the UNESCO world heritage list. Initially the UK had some concerns about the European heritage label, but these were adequately addressed in the final text of the conclusions. The UK was able to support their adoption, in particular the voluntary nature of the scheme. The Commission will now bring forward a legislative proposal in 2010.
Council conclusions on the contribution of architecture to sustainable development were agreed. The UK supported the adoption of the conclusions as they reflect the UK’s approach to architecture, sustainable design, and built environment education. The forthcoming Swedish presidency announced they would build on this with a conference towards the end of 2009.
The role of culture in the external relations of the EU was also discussed at the Council meeting. The member states that intervened agreed that culture was an important element of relations with third countries and that the UNESCO convention on the diversity of cultural expressions should be the basis for EU action. The UK was content with this outcome and supported the adoption of the conclusions. However, some member states felt that more needed to be done to ensure equality of all EU languages and called for a declaration to this end. These countries were also critical of the Commission for the lack of translation of some documents they produce.
These issues were again raised during the discussion of section 4 of the resolution on multilingualism and translation. In particular, some member states wanted assurances that a presidency background note that called for new EU activity on translation (including a possible new centre for translation) was not binding. The UK intervened in Welsh to show its support for the multilingualism agenda, but also to support the scepticism expressed about a new European translation centre.
Ministers adopted conclusions on Europeana, the European digital library, and were supportive of this new cultural resource. The UK welcomed the aspiration to digitise European content and to increase accessibility to our shared cultural heritage and supported the adoption of these conclusions. During the discussion concerns were raised about the possible impact on the availability of content of Commission proposals to extend copyright term from 50 to 95 years.
The Council also adopted conclusions on legal offers of online cultural content and combating piracy. It was agreed that copyright protection was central to this process. The text of the conclusions is in line with UK national priorities.
Under any other business, the presidency and Commission presented the Council with updates on European archives and the safer internet programme. Sweden raised concerns about the Commission communication on state aid to public service broadcasting. Germany raised an information point on support for digitisation of cinemas. There were no discussions following any of these items.
The Czech Minister presented the priorities for the forthcoming Czech presidency in the fields of culture and audiovisual. Culture priorities included discussing the role of culture in achieving the Lisbon objectives; strengthening links with civil society; and celebrating the 2009 year of creativity and innovation and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the iron curtain. Audiovisual priorities included the digitisation of cultural content.