On the Future of European Cinema and the Audiovisual Sector following the Expansion of the Union

From cultural particularity to European identity

Thessaloniki, 25-27 May, 2003

LINK: Screen Daily Article by Alexis Grivas

The Conference on “The Future of European Cinema and the Audiovisual Sector Following the Expansion of the Union” took place on the 25, 26 and 27 of May in Thessaloniki as an initiative of the Greek Presidency of the European Union. Participating were: the President of the Council of Ministers of Culture for the E.U. Mr. Evangelos Venizelos, ministers from member countries, Ms. Viviane Reding, Culture and Education Commissioner, representatives of the European Commission, representatives of E.U. member countries, established creators of European Cinema, presidents of film organizations and Greek professional unions as well as various experts from 36 countries.

The preservation of cultural uniqueness and the emergence of European film and audiovisual creation as an agent in the formation of European identity was the core of the argument developed during the three day workshops. In this framework, and according to paragraph 4 of Article 151 regarding the necessity of including the cultural dimension in the decision making process of the E.U., the formation of a common European film and audiovisual cultural policy adapted to the needs of an expanded Europe can contribute to the preservation of a collective historical memory and the emergence and development of cultural identity.

The importance of audiovisual creation to 21st century culture is obvious and self-evident. This observation must be taken into account by European educational systems. School is the only place that functions outside the laws of the marketplace, our culture is developed and reproduced within it, it can contribute significantly to the knowledge, cultivation and the development of taste and can be a counter-weight to the one-sided audiovisual products offered, which are American in their majority.

The educational system must adopt the audiovisual heritage (national and non-national) exactly as it has adopted literature and undertake its preservation and dissemination, giving young people the opportunity to learn cinema, or to create cinema, according to the Greek educational programme. The educational system must create far more mature and educated audiences, citizen-viewers who have not been deprived of the right to pluralistic knowledge and unlimited development of their cultural identity.

The insufficient distribution of European films and the minimal access that the European viewer actually has to his own films, alienates him from the culture of his neighbours. European audiovisual policy has not yet given a decisive response to the predominance of American products. Policy in this sector must be far more decisive, to preserve and strengthen already existing successful organizations such as EUROPA CINEMAS of the MEDIA PLUS programme, but also undertake coordinated and complementary actions.

Since the problem can not be dealt with exclusively through institutional support, the creation of expanded European networks must be sought, providing incentives to private enterprise on the condition that European films be distributed in at least six European countries. Moreover, the already existing support mechanisms must be strengthened, and new ones must be created on a European or regional level for the support of cinema in the new countries that are in the process of developing better strategies for all stages of production, from script writing to distribution.

The development of a fertile argument and the expression of the need to take practical measures, lead to the unanimous acceptance of the proposal of the President of the Council of Ministers of Culture, Mr. Evangelos Venizelos, who announced the meeting of the Film Centers of 25 countries during the Greek Presidency, with the participation of one state, preferably, television channel and one commercial bank from each country, for the purpose of examining the possibilities of collaboration in the areas of production and distribution of European Film.