On Monday 19 January at 15:00 Minister of Culture Václav Jehlička addressed the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament in Brussels, where he introduced the Czech priorities in the area of culture.

 European Parliament

Before the hearing the Culture Minister met with President of the Committee Katerina Batzeli and held a short talk with Czech members of the European Parliament who are also members of the Committee on Culture and Education.

The hearing at the Committee on Culture and Education was also attended by Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Ondřej Liška.

Speech by Václav Jehlička, Minister of Culture, in the European Parliament – 19 January 2009

Dear Madam Chairwoman, Dear Members,

Please allow me to present to you the priorities of the Czech Presidency in the areas of culture and the audiovisual media, that is to say areas that fall under the activities of your Committee.

Twenty years ago the iron curtain – the barrier which divided Europe – fell. Twenty years ago we- the Slavonic and Baltic nations, Hungarians and Romanians returned to Europe, to the Europe where we had lived for centuries. Since the invasion of the Tartars in Europe in 1241 and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, we have had more or less intensive encounters with the differences from the east and we, more so than nations whose place in Europe was never endangered, had to consider where we wanted to belong. Perhaps that is why we created a more ‘European’ Europe over the centuries, so that we were sure where we belonged. Perhaps that is why Riga, Budapest or Bucharest were called the Paris of the East. Perhaps that is why some of our stately homes are more English than those in England, perhaps that is why we drink more beer than people in Belgium or Germany. Perhaps that is why the theme of identity is so exciting for our artists, as they showed in their work Entropa.

The Czech Presidency aims to make full use of the European Agenda for Culture, passed on 16 November 2007 by the resolution of the Council and the work plan in the area of culture for the period 2008-2010, which was approved by the Council during the Slovenian Presidency. As you know the European Agenda for Culture is a strategic document based on the Communication of the Commission ‘European agenda for culture in a globalizing world’, approved in 2007. While the Slovenian Presidency in the first half of 2008 focused on the themes of cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue and our French colleagues’ main focus was to support culture as a distinct reviving element in the external relations of the European Union, we want to aim for the third dimension of the Communication namely to support culture as a catalyst for creativity as part of the Lisbon Strategy.

Personally I believe that this topic has grown in importance of late. At a time of economic crisis it is necessary to look for new ways and new solutions with long term effects and make use of every available resource within Europe. The guarantee of success in this search can only be our creativity. Ladies and gentlemen, as you well know the principle of the documents mentioned is a developed and structured system of cooperation between the Member States and the institutions of the European Union, based on the ‘open method of coordination’. The approved work plan therefore represents an important step in the process of making use of this method, used for the first time ever in the area of culture. The Czech Presidency will strive to put those principles into practice facilitating the exchange of information between all relevant parties to the ‘open method of coordination’.

On 7 January in Prague I and my colleague Mr Liška along with representatives of the Commission launched the European Year of Creativity and Innovation. In Prague we wish to continue and give fresh impetus to the discussion of creativity with the international conference ‘Forum for a Creative Europe’. We will host it in cooperation with the European Commission at ministerial level in March and we hope it will become the main event of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009. The theme of the conference further develops the aims of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 and it also marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. This fall freed creativity long suppressed by the Communist regime. It is not only culture which has experienced this flourishing of creativity.

The conference will be divided into three thematic sections: creativity and society, creativity and education and creativity and economy. It will focus on the unique contribution of art and culture to the development of Europe and the formation of an open democratic society. Who other than writers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, George Orwell or Václav Havel created images or voiced fears in their works which were later confirmed in political life? I am sure that the ‘Forum for a Creative Europe’ will present culture and art and their basic quality - creativity- as absolutely essential for people’s lives and society as a whole, as an irreplaceable source of vitality and positive development. After all, culture is not something secondary, it is not only there to fill our free time when all important things have been done. We hold the ‘Forum for a Creative Europe’ to show, among other things, that what is not full of creativity and does not have culture at its core leads to negative phenomena in society and to the stagnation of individuals and society as a whole. As a person who is concerned with aesthetics I can share my own experience on how artistic activities and culture shape the personalities of children and young people and develop their talent. My former pupils often persuaded me that they were able to generate new ideas and unusual ways to solve various problems, including social and economic ones.

Dear MEPs, I am convinced that it is essential to consider art and culture as the essence of creativity, as a source of new ways of thinking and behaving. A source even more important in connection with the worries raised during the current economic crisis. Along with science and research, art can be the inspiration and motivation in looking for effective strategies leading to the social and economic prosperity of Europe. Our aim is to accept the Council Conclusions to see creativity in the context of culture and creativity in today’s society. I believe that the Prague conference will be a great help in achieving this aim.

Following the French Presidency we will focus on priorities in the area of the digitisation of cultural content. In May we will be holding a specialist conference in Prague with the digitisation of cultural heritage as its theme. It will focus on the European digital library, the national strategies of the Member States and successful digitisation projects within the European Union.

Personally speaking, one project in the area of European cultural heritage is particularly close to my heart, namely the marking of places of great historic interest with the European Heritage emblem, which is as a result of the Council Conclusions of 20 November last year. It is an effort to find things which unite us, which help to create our European identity. And looking for our European identity is for us – a country in the east of the Union- especially important. The Czech Republic supported this project not only through intergovernmental initiatives, but above all helped to bring it to community level. Another parallel is the European Capital City of Culture project. 19 EU Member States and Switzerland joined existing initiatives. I was very pleased when in April last year your Committee supported our efforts in response to this initiative. We continue to support the project and welcome not only the results of work of the French Presidency but also the welcoming approach of the European Commission. On the basis of the text from November the Commission was requested to prepare a suitable legislative framework. We believe the Commission will be able to do this by the end of this year.

Dear MEPs, our aim in the area of the audiovisual media is to continue activities which ensure a stable environment for new methods of distributing audiovisual content. Our efforts will concentrate on raising the awareness of users in the area of legally offered services, counterfeiting and understanding the commercial message of business statements. The Czech Republic regards the area of awareness raising as one of the most important tools in reaching these goals, and not only at EU and Member State level , but also with content providers and users. In accordance with your new report on media literacy in the digital environment the Czech Presidency is ensuring discussion on specific awareness raising programmes. We are holding a conference in Prague in order to deepen our exchange of experience, present specific options of the mechanism and demonstrate good examples and projects that work. In short we want to show where specifically it is possible to inspire and cooperate.

One of the main tasks of the Member States at the present time is the transposition of the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive. One of the new elements is the regulation of product placement and because there was a wide range of opinions among the Member States regarding this matter we see this topic as very pressing. When we are discussing our approach to regulation, it is useful to raise the question how to introduce this type of regulated commercial message to the public and how to explain and help people to understand it. Because advertising is an important part of everyday life, it is necessary to increase the awareness of all target groups about the meaning of business messages, especially young people who are threatened the most. We consider it especially important to separate commercial content from other content.

In today’s media environment media literacy must not only correspond to the opportunities offered by new media but also to the knowledge which is needed to use traditional media. I don’t believe that it is possible to ignore the views of content providers and users. Consumer behaviour influences the behaviour of the content provider and vice versa.

In spite of texts approved in the last year by the Council and the European Commission, the need to raise awareness among the public concerning respect for intellectual property rights and legal usage on the one hand and counterfeiting on the other is still great. The most promising way ahead in the digital environment is to prevent the theft of protected cultural content and at the same time enlarge the availability of legal content. We see this above all in effective practical cooperation between the creators of cultural content and those who provide it to the end users. The legality of any cultural content, on any commercial basis is of course conditional on the adequate legal awareness of the user. That is why it is in the best interests of all concerned to systematically deepen the public’s knowledge.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the topics we have chosen follow from the undertakings made by the Council last year and relate to the questions and areas mentioned in your report from 18 December last year. We expect that our activities will be of help when planning further steps at EU level. I would also like to inform you that the Czech Presidency will open discussions at Council level about newly issued proposals establishing cooperation with third countries in the area of audiovisual media. The proposed programme called Media Mundus follows on from your initiative at the end of 2007 and requires approval by the codecision procedure, which assumes the common agreement of our institutions. In view of the fact that your term of office is coming to an end, the timing puts us in a difficult situation. I believe the best solution will be intensive cooperation. I assure you that the Czech Presidency will create space for these negotiations and contribute to achieving our common goals.

Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for your attention. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.