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EU: Education, Youth and Culture Council

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 19 November 2008

My honourable friend the Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism (Barbara Follett) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Education, Youth and Culture Council will be held on 20 and 21 November in Brussels. Alun Ffred Jones, Minister for Heritage for Wales, will be representing the UK on the morning of 20 November when culture and audio-visual issues will be taken. Education issues will be taken on 21 November.

The first item on the agenda is the conclusions on the European heritage label. The purpose of this initiative is to highlight sites and monuments that have played a key role in European history and to raise their profile as tourist attractions. UK concerns about the added value of a European heritage label have largely been addressed in discussions at official level. The draft conclusions are now broadly acceptable and the scheme is to be voluntary, which will allow the UK to decide on the extent of any future participation. The council is expected to adopt the conclusions and the Government intend to endorse this course of action.

The presidency will seek adoption of the conclusions on architecture as part of culture’s contribution to sustainable development. The conclusions recognise the important integrating role of architecture, which involves cultural creation and technology, in implementing sustainable development. They suggest various means by which the European Commission and member states can promote architecture's role in sustainable development. The conclusions have been considered and welcomed by the European Forum for Architecture Policies. The aims of the conclusions are in line with the UK’s approach to architecture, sustainable design and built environment education. The Government intend to support the adoption of these conclusions.

The council will then be invited to adopt conclusions on the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue in external relations. These conclusions encourage member states to strengthen the role of culture in broader programmes; to enter into discussion with third countries about legal frameworks on cultural policies; to promote cultural diversity and the economic benefits of cultural activities; and to strengthen the role of culture in sustainable development. They also encourage the exchange of best practice on cultural issues; the mobility of artists, especially young people; the protection of copyright matters; and the protection and preservation of cultural heritage and goods. The UK believes that these conclusions adequately address cultural property issues. The Government intend to support the adoption of these conclusions.

There will be an exchange of views on Section 4 of the draft resolution on multilingualism. This section of the resolution suggests ways in which translation issues might be better addressed, with a focus on delivering cultural goals. These include improvements in conditions for translation of texts and publishing issues; reinforcing the role of cinema and audio-visual works in promoting language diversity; improving accessibility of performing arts to a wider audience; and improving training in translation skills. The UK supports the focus on culture in translation issues and the focus on young people as proposed in Section 4 of the draft resolution. The UK welcomes the proposed debate on the issue. The Government will intervene on this item to express their support for multilingualism. The full text of the resolution is expected to be adopted during the education section of the council.

The presidency will seek the adoption of conclusions on the creation of a European digital library, known as Europeana. There will also be a launch event that day at the Royal Library of Belgium. Europeana is an online common multilingual access point to European digital cultural material including books, newspapers, photographs, films, archival documents and archaeological heritage. The conclusions have been discussed and agreed at official level. The Government intend to support their adoption and there will be no need to intervene.

The presidency will also seek the adoption of the conclusions on the development of legal offers of online cultural and creative content and the prevention and combating of piracy in the digital environment.

The Commission published a communication in January of this year that examined the current status of online creative content in Europe and how the European Union can add value to this. In July, the French presidency submitted draft conclusions, which attempted to incorporate member states’ and stakeholders’ views on the Commission’s findings and to focus the discussions on the legal offer of online content. The conclusions have been discussed and finalised at official level and the council is now expected to adopt them at this meeting. The Government intend to support the adoption of these conclusions.

Broadcasting is not a specific agenda item for this meeting of the council. I understand, however, that Sweden may raise an information point under any other business on the Commission’s communication on state aid rules and public service broadcasting. State aid issues are within the formal competence of the Commission and the European Court and the Government’s view is that they are not a matter on which council conclusions are appropriate. The Government, however, remain a firm supporter of the principle of public service broadcasting. Bearing in mind the importance of public service broadcasting across the EU, we think that it is right for member states and the Commission to develop a clear framework to ensure that it is properly funded in future while respecting the competition rules, and we look forward to taking a prominent and positive role in that debate.

Further items under any other business are a presentation from the presidency and Commission on the progress report on the implementation of the council recommendation on priority actions to increase co-operation in the field of archives in Europe compiled by the European Archives Group. The presidency will provide information on the proposed multiannual safer internet programme. There will also be an information point from Germany on the digitisation of cinema. The Government do not foresee any need to intervene on these items.