On 1 January 2009, the Czech Republic took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union under the symbolic motto ”Europe without barriers”. For the Ministry of Culture this event became a significant part of its work and of the activities of cultural institutions falling within its competence.
The objectives of the Presidency were set in compliance with the priorities of individual ministries.
Culture and audiovision
At the meeting of the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament held on 19 January 2009 in Brussels, Minister of Culture Václav Jehlička presented the priorities of the Czech Presidency in the field of culture, audiovisual and intellectual property and answered the questions of the members of the European Parliament.
On 7 January 2009, Minister of Culture V. Jehlička together with the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports O. Liška in the presence of the Commissioner J. Figeľ officially opened in Prague the international conference on “The European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009“, adopted by Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council based on the proposal of the European Commission. The aim of the 2009 European Year is to foster creativity as well as the ability to use innovation as a key competence of all individuals. The European Year tradition dates back to 1983. Since then EU, often together with the Council of Europe, announces the topic for the following twelve months. The topic in 2006 was workers´ mobility, in 2007 equal opportunities for all and in 2008 intercultural dialogue. The European Year focused on a particular issue aims to raise public awareness of the given issue, disseminate information about best practices, stimulate policy debate and promote active citizenship. Participants in the conference discussed the possibilities of a creative and innovative approach in business, industry, education, science and culture in the light of the global economic recession. The Ministry of Culture was involved in the preparation of the content of the conference that was successfully organized under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. The European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 under the motto “Imagine – Create – Innovate” was officially announced by Prime Minister of the Government CR M. Topolánek and President of the European Commission J. M. Barroso within the official inauguration of the Czech Republic as the EU presiding country in the National Theatre.
The main priority in the field of culture during the Czech Presidency was creativity in linkage to innovation and economy. In this, creativity is perceived as the ability to come up with new ideas and turn visions and dreams into reality, with the arts and culture having always been the primary source of creativity.
The Presidency focused on fulfilment of “the European Agenda for Culture“ adopted by Resolution of the Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Council (“EYC Council”) on 16 November 2007, and of “Conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the Work Plan for Culture 2008–2010” adopted by the Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Council on 21 May 2008.
On 12 May 2009, the Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Council composed of Ministers for Culture and Audiovision adopted the proposal of the Council´s conclusions on culture as a catalyst for creativity and innovation, one of the main priorities of the Czech Presidency in the field of culture. This document promotes long-term efforts of the EU Ministers of Culture aimed at increasing the focus on the cultural issues within the European policies, and creates for this purpose the necessary tools. Its individual parts summarize the achievements and set particular tasks and procedures for joint efforts of the Member States and the Commission to achieve the set goals. The document invites Member States and the European Commission to foster in various ways the potential of cultural policies to promote creativity in the society.
On 26 – 27 March 2009, Prague hosted within The European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 the international conference on “Forum for Creative Europe”. The concept of creativity was discussed within three thematic sessions: Art, Culture and Creative Environmentalism, Creativity and Society and Creativity and Education. The conference presented clear arguments that culture and creativity significantly contribute to the social and economic growth. . The conference aimed at recognising the unique contribution of art and culture to the development and utilisation of Europe’s creative potential and at reinforcing the perception of art and culture as the primary source of inspiration for European creativity
Topics of the conference, individual speakers as well as the Forum as a whole met with a highly positive response from the specialized public, particularly due to the fact that the topics constituted a comprehensive whole that reflected in a complex way the thematic links of the traditionally perceived culture as the spiritual wealth and the potential of both the individual and the society with the economic, social, sociologic, or in more general terms anthropologic phenomena. The most important mission of the conference was the necessity to review the issue of isolation of art and culture. Systemic changes set in this way may help economies of individual countries overcome the current economic crisis. Contributions of the participants clearly showed that art and culture not only serve as the basis of creativity, new ideas and innovations, but also conduce fundamentally to a sound development of the whole society.
The conference was attended by 546 registered participants, of these 305 foreign and 241 Czech participants. The actual attendance was about 500 participants during both days of the conference. The conference heard 38 speakers primarily from Europe, 1 from Australia and 2 from USA. Official delegations of the EU Member States and candidate countries included 6 Ministers of Culture (Czech Republic, France, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania) and 5 Deputy Ministers of Culture (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Poland and Slovakia).
On 26 May 2009, Prague hosted within the priority of the Czech Presidency “digitisation of cultural content” the conference “Digital Access to Cultural Heritage” that focused on the procedures of digitisation in the Czech Republic and on the issues of the European Digital Library. The conference aimed at creating a platform for exchange of information on activities related to digital access to the European cultural heritage both from the viewpoint of the European Commission and its selected initiatives and from the viewpoint of major projects, programmes and activities of the European national libraries.
The aim of the conference was to give a comprehensive overview of digitisation policy in Europe, of the work already done and to be achieved not only in the data production area, but especially in the provision of online access to users in Europe and worldwide. There were presentations of ideas coming from the European Commission and of its activities in this respect, as well as reports on the results of the NUMERIC - Statistics on digitisation of cultural materials in Europe and on Europeana as the European digital library, museum and archive. In more specific detail, the conference focused on case studies from several selected European national libraries which provide an inspiring example of programmes or projects that have achieved stable and positive results. Together with presentation of major projects, such as the French Gallica or Hispanic Digital Library, selected activities from Austria, Lithuania, Sweden and the Czech Republic were presented.
On 2 June 2009, Prague hosted informal meeting of the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Council (CAC), focused on a structured discussion concerning the impact of economic crisis on the culture in the Member States. The Member States expressed their opinions on the following issues:
- What tendencies may be expected in state expenditure on culture in the near future?
- Have these tendencies been influenced by expenditure from private resources in the field of culture? What is the source of information about this development in the Member States?
- What is the effect of the current economic situation on projects of international cooperation in the field of culture?
- What tools do Member States use to tackle the current situation (both in the positive and negative respect)?
Participants in the discussion stated that the impact of crisis varies in individual Member States. A recommendation was adopted to share information about the set anti-crisis measures. At the same time, the importance was highlighted of the role of innovation and creative industry that has a great potential for the future.
The informal meeting of CAC also opened discussion on preparation of the 2010 – 2013 Work Plan. The Czech Presidency proposed the following issues for structured discussion:
- What major goals should be proposed by the Cultural Affairs Committee for the field of culture now and after 2010 in view of the current situation, conclusions of the European Councils, Council of Ministers and the European Commission´s studies?
- What methodology should be used to set these goals?
- How to use the knowledge of expert working groups in order to make the new Work Plan as efficient as possible?
In the opinion of participants in the discussion, it is too early to make conclusions regarding a new structure of the CAC work. The Work Plan in its current form assumes submission of medium-term and final reports. In July 2009, agreement of EC and Eurostat was signed for providing data from the field of culture within EU, that should serve to analyze the impact of culture on public life.
The Czech Presidency paid special attention to the issue of holocaust victims. The Ministry of Culture was involved in the preparation and organization of “Holocaust Era Assets Conference” that was held in Prague and Terezín on 26-30 June 2009.
In addition to these specialized achievements, the Ministry of Culture was actively involved in ensuring the accompanying cultural events of the Presidency. Grant systems of the Ministry of Culture for promotion of cultural events ensured financial assistance for individual cultural institutions and entities that prepared their projects. In total more than 80 cultural projects were implemented both in the Czech Republic and other countries with the logo of the Presidency. The Ministry of Culture supported financially also cultural events organized by the Czech Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.
On 18 - 20 March 2009, the international conference “On the responsibilities of content providers and users” was held in Prague on topical issues from the field of audiovisual, media and the on-line content. In particular it focused on the issues of raising the public awareness in relation to the copyright, understanding the content of business communications mainly as concerns product placement and on the concepts of media literacy in Europe. At the same time, the topics of the conference responded to the newly adopted Audiovisual Media Services Directive and were aimed at promoting its implementation in individual countries.
In January 2009, the Commission presented proposal of a new MEDIA MUNDUS programme focused on cooperation of audiovisual professionals from Europe and third countries. Its aim is to improve the competitiveness and transnational distribution of audiovisual works worldwide and access to the culturally diverse audiovisual content. The programme should be implemented between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2013 with the total budget of €15 million. The European Parliament adopted at the first reading on 7 May 2009 the compromise text negotiated by the Czech Presidency. In fact, this legislative act was adopted during one presidency term of office thanks to efficient cooperation of the Council, the Parliament and the Commission. Such promptness is unparalleled within co-decision procedure.
As a result, within finalization of debate about the proposal of the Media Mundus programme, the Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Council could at its session on 12 May 2009 in the part on audiovision discuss the topical issues of “creative content on-line“ and “media literacy”. The aim was to exchange experience gained by Member States mainly during the last year and thus provide a practical response to the Council´s conclusions on these topics from the past year. Through the choice of these issues, the Czech Presidency intended to provide the Commission with a feedback from the Member States as concerns the way they cope with changes in the field of electronic media, that may be used by the Commission in preparation of new proposals and strategies.
Intellectual property – copyright
(Chapter Internal Market, Competitiveness Council)
Beyond the framework of the Work Plan of the Czech Presidency, the Ministry of Culture ensured within the Copyright Working Group of the Competitiveness Council a discussion of the Commission´s proposal to amend Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the term of protection of copyright and related rights. The proposal is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The proposal for amendment to the Directive was presented by the Commission in July 2008 and during preparation of the Czech Presidency no significant progress was expected in discussions of the proposal. However, due to the fact that the Commission and the Rapporteur of the proposal in JURI (MEP B. Crowley) were highly interested in adoption of the proposal at the first reading already in the course of the 2004-2009 EP functional term, the process was significantly accelerated. On 23 April 2009, proposal of the amended Directive (to a great extent corresponding to the Council´s amendments) was adopted at the first reading by the EP plenary session.
The Czech Presidency dealt actively with the proposal. In addition to the planned meetings, another working group was included in the agenda (23 March) and a meeting of attachés was convened (3 April). In cooperation with the General Secretariat of the Council and the Commission, the Czech Presidency prepared in total 4 revised compromise proposals and actively negotiated with EP and the Commission within the so called “informal trialogue“. At the COREPER meeting on 27 March 2009, a blocking minority returned the proposal to the level of the Working Group. At the meeting of the Copyright Working Group on 18 May 2009, discussion was opened on the official withdrawal from the EP vote. The proposal was passed on to the Swedish Presidency for further consideration.
The Copyright Working Group continuously dealt also with the agenda of the World Intellectual Property Organization - WIPO (preparation of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and the related rights, held on 25 - 29 May 2009 in the WIPO seat in Geneva, preparation of the meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and genetic sources, traditional knowledge and folklore, held on 29 June – 3 July 2009 in the WIPO seat in Geneva) and with the issues of copyright chapters of the bilateral trade agreements being prepared (FTAs – „Free Trade Agreements“) and the ACTA multilateral agreement (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement).
The Czech Presidency promptly responded to the initiative of Germany submitted at the meeting of the Copyright Working Group on 18 May 2009, by which Germany invited other countries to adopt a uniform (critical) EU attitude to the “Google Books“ project in the form of adoption of the Council´s conclusions at the next meeting of the Competitiveness Council. Due to expiry of the procedural time limits for inclusion of this issue in “regular” items of the agenda of the meeting of the Council of Ministers, the Czech Presidency decided to keep this issue on the agenda in the part “Miscellaneous”. In order to meet the requirements of Germany and other states that supported this initiative, the Council invites in the official minutes of the meeting of the Competitiveness Council held on 28 May, the Commission to review the Google Books project, particularly in view of its potential impact on the works of the European authors and their rights and, if need be, to propose the necessary measures for their protection. The Commission promised to inform Member States about the results of its review in September 2009.
Germany opened for the first time this issue at the session of the Council of Ministers for Education, Youth Affairs and Culture (EYC) held on 12 May 2009 in the “Miscellaneous“ part of the agenda.