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EU: Education, Youth and Culture Council

Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2009


My honourable friend the Minister for Creative Industries (Siôn Simon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A meeting of the Education, Youth and Culture Council was held on 26 and 27 November. I represented the UK for the culture and audiovisual section of the council on 27 November.

The council adopted, without further debate, the conclusions on promoting a creative generation by developing the creativity and innovative capacity of children and young people through cultural expression and access to culture.

The proposal for the European Year of Voluntary Activities promoting Active Citizenship (2011) was adopted by the council. The year’s aim is to improve the environment for volunteering in the EU, to raise the quality of voluntary activities and to recognise the value and importance of volunteering. A budget of €8 million has been allocated for this initiative.

The council adopted the conclusions on media literacy in the digital environment encouraging the promotion of media literacy, including through formal and informal education, to maximise the potential of the internet and minimise possible risks. The conclusions were adopted without further discussion.

There was then a presentation by the Commission on the Google books report. The Commission had strong concerns about the revised Google books settlement, and argued for the development of an EU legal framework on global copyright issues. The Commission encouraged member states to increase the number of EU books being digitised and highlighted that initial findings from the recent consultation on Europeana (the European Digital Library) has shown strong support for the initiative.

A policy debate on the digitisation of cultural content in Europe followed the Commission’s presentation. All member states agreed on the importance of fair but user-friendly copyright rules, and the need for EU level co-operation and encouragement. Public/private partnerships were also supported by the majority of member states, with many citing the usefulness of the Arrow project. There was no request for further member state funding for Europeana.

Under any other business, France raised the current financial difficulties faced by cinemas in transferring to digital systems. Slovenia, supported by a number of member states, requested that books written in minority languages should be allowed to have a zero tax rate. The Spanish gave a brief presentation on their forthcoming presidency. An informal council meeting would be held on 29 and 30 March, a seminar on copyright and digital libraries in Madrid on 26 and 27 April, a European cultural heritage conference on 29 April and a conference on the mobility of artists on 25 May in Madrid.

Finally, Austria asked the Commission to explain their proposed next steps following a letter received from Commissioner Reding on the Council of Europe convention on transfrontier television. This concerned the legal implications of signing a convention that related to an area of EU competence. The Commissioner argued that the letter merely reflected the current legal reality. The Commission did not want its future right of initiative to be affected by the Council of Europe convention, but agreed that we should co-operate on the basis of complementarity. They did not rule out the possibility that a prior negotiating mandate may be necessary.