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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > January 2005 > Speech by Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Culture, Higher Education and Research, to the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament, 17 January 2005
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Speech by Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Culture, Higher Education and Research, to the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament, 17 January 2005

Date of Speech : 17-01-2005

Place : Brussels

Speaker : Octavie Modert

Policy area : Education, Youth and Culture Education, Youth and Culture

Mr President,


Members of Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

"Nous autres civilisations, nous savons maintenant que nous sommes mortelles."

("We [later] civilizations, we do know now that we are mortal.")

This quote is from the start of a famous text by Paul Valéry (Variété – La Crise de l'Esprit, Éditions Gallimard, 1924-1944), written after the First World War. Like all great literary texts, like any authentic artistic text, it takes on new meaning when confronted with current events:

Luxembourg’s Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union is beginning in a context made fragile by the hecatomb caused by the Asian tsunami. In the awareness that disasters – whether natural or man-made – question every certainty and every accepted fact, often leaving us at a loss for words, I think nevertheless that the many reactions of compassion, spontaneous mutual assistance and global solidarity give us reason to believe that an awakening is taking place that will last, both in Europe and in the world.

This awakening of the whole of humanity is evidence that the fate of the world, is definitely our business (Paul Valéry): we cannot remain indifferent. It is through action that women and men for whom practising culture is a mission, a vocation, stand out from the crowd. Especially when they are guided by the precepts laid down under the aegis of UNESCO in 1982 in Mexico City, emphasizing that "It is culture that makes us specifically human, rational beings, endowed with a critical judgement and a sense of moral commitment. It is through culture that we discern values and make choices. It is through culture that man expresses himself, becomes aware of himself, recognizes his incompleteness, questions his own achievements, seeks untiringly for new meanings and creates works, which transcend his own limitations".

That is the spirit that our cultural policy must respect: above and beyond the importance of the works created and the values that are recognized or in the process of being recognized, we know that the creative act, the path that leads to the goal is sometimes as important as the work accomplished.

All of this is to tell you that during the six months of "our" Presidency, we shall be guided by the following parameters:

• they will be situated, of course, against the backdrop of this new geopolitical situation that I have just described;

• they will be determined by the results obtained during past Presidencies: I refer in particular to the famous "rolling agenda", which was agreed under the Dutch Presidency: this working agenda for the years 2005 and 2006 will enable us, we hope to achieve a certain continuity and follow-up of our work in the Council of Ministers and the Cultural Affairs Committee;

• finally, they will attempt to take account of the latest developments and the progress in various negotiations.

Because Luxembourg is a small country, because our human resources are limited, it is often said that Luxembourg Presidencies are pragmatic Presidencies which listen to their partners in the Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, the Council, in the Member States and beyond.

We shall endeavour to uphold that reputation, while appealing to your indulgence where we may not succeed in doing everything!

Rest assured that we shall have a listening attitude and that we will do our utmost to take account of the various opinions and sometimes divergent positions between Community partners to play our role of intermediary, or "honest broker", to the full, in order to make progress on the various issues.

Now I would like to talk to you about some of these issues and problems that we would like to deal with under our Presidency, with your help, that of the Commission, the Secretariat General and the Member States.

1. Proposal for a decision by the European Parliament and the Council establishing the "Culture 2007" Programme (2007-2013)

On 14 July 2004, the European Commission adopted a proposal relating to a new-generation programme in the field of culture for the period 2007-2013.

Promoting trans-national mobility for people working in the cultural sector, encouraging trans-national movement of works of art and artistic and cultural products and encouraging intercultural dialogue to supplement action by the Member States are the main objectives of the "Culture 2007" programme, for which the proposed budget is EUR 408 million. The proposal must now be examined by the Council and the European Parliament with a view to adoption by the end of 2005.

In relation to the current Culture 2000 programme, the new programme is moving away from a sector-specific approach (per artistic and cultural discipline). Operators will be free to propose projects, provided that they address at least two of the objectives set out above.

You are aware that it is developing three main areas of action:

• support for cultural actions by means of cooperation poles, cooperation actions and special actions;

• support for European organizations active in the cultural field;

• and support for analytical work and the collection and dissemination of information in the field of cultural cooperation.

Its management will be entrusted to an executive agency.

In September 2004, the European Parliament appointed Mr Graça Moura as rapporteur on the Commission proposal. Still in September, the Cultural Affairs Committee started examining the proposal. The Council held a policy debate in November, focusing on the following questions: mentioning specific cultural sectors in the programme and participation of small projects and/or operators.

First of all, the open, non-exclusive character of the programme proposed and the fact that it did not mention specific sectors were welcomed, including by Luxembourg.

Delegations generally emphasized that the programme should be open to small cultural operators. Some of them declared that they were in favour of a reduction in the minimum number of operators or a lowering of the financial thresholds in order to make the programme accessible to small projects with limited budgets. It was stated that the determinant criteria was the quality of projects rather than their size. To comply with these wishes while avoiding a bidding war and inundation with proposals, the Luxembourg Presidency imagines that one could adopt a project selection procedure in several stages, for example by adding a pre-selection stage.

In relation to the important specific action "conservation of deportation sites", the Luxembourg Presidency is favourable in principle to broadening the scope by equally including the crucially necessary memory of the victims of the holocaust and Nazism and concentration camps, as well as other deportation camps in Europe after the Second World War. The latter in homage to the numerous victims of camps set up in Europe under communist regimes; the Europe of 25 as we know it since the elections of this European Parliament that you represent today was only able to come into existence after the collapse of communism when the destiny, history and geography of the European continent were re-unified.

Of course, we are aware that the adoption of the Culture 2007 Programme is subject to a decision on the financial perspectives 2007-2013. Perhaps you could try to speed up the work of the European Parliament on these financial perspectives? The Luxembourg Presidency will, in any case, do its utmost to reach a political consensus on the Culture 2007 programme during a general policy debate, so that it can be adopted as soon as possible once an agreement has been reached on the financial aspect; because we are well aware that the Culture 2007 Programme must be ready to come into effect in 2007, as its name suggests.

A second chapter that we shall deal with is

2. European Capitals of Culture

The "European Capitals of Culture" event is, in my opinion, the action that has had most impact on European citizens. Many European cities have succeeded in starting far-reaching change processes at various levels:

• European approach to many problems;

• making the general public aware of various cultural practices;

• considerable investments in urban changes creating greater conviviality in cities and contributing to greater cultural cohesion;

• awareness of the richness of our European cultures and, at the same time, consolidation of national identities.

The success of these European capitals of culture is due to the tireless commitment of various VIPs, women and men for whom engaging in culture forms part of the learning of life. The festive spirit of this event goes hand in hand with profound processes of reflection creating a state of mind that is open to others and their diversity. It is impossible to overstate the role of our artists and cultural players who succeed, each in their own way and in their own city, in advancing creativity and professionalism.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Luxembourg will have the honour, after 1995, of again being a European Capital of Culture in 2007. When Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, proposed at the Summit of the Grande Région" in May 2000 that the concept of European Capital should be extended beyond Luxembourg alone to the whole Grande Région, this gave the Grand Duchy’s candidature for 2007 a completely new European dimension.

In the application, submitted by Mrs Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, Minister of Culture, Higher Education and Research, to the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the European Jury, Luxembourg put forward a joint proposal for the five territorial entities represented in the project. This involves:

• besides the City of Luxembourg as the standard-bearer of the project and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg;

• the French-speaking Community of Belgium and the German-speaking Community of Belgium;

• Lorraine (Moselle, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse and the Vosges departments) in France,

• the Saar and Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany.

Moreover, the application recommended involving a third country, Romania which proposed to present, alongside Luxembourg, the candidature of a Romanian city, i.e. Sibiu (or Hermannstadt, in Transylvania). This Romanian candidature received unconditional support from Luxembourg and the Grande Région, particularly as it was from the territories of the same Grande Région that craftsmen emigrated to Transylvania 800 years ago.

Following the very positive opinion of the jury of experts, the green light was given for Luxembourg and the Grand Région as well as the City of Sibiu in Romania to be designated "European Capitals of Culture 2007".

It must be said that on the part of the European Parliament, and particularly the President of your Culture and Education Committee at the time, there was a degree of irritation about the decision-making with regard to the role to be played by the jury set up for this occasion. Since then, several countries, including Luxembourg, who wrote to the Commission in March 2003, proposed to re-assess the role of the jury and assign it a monitoring role in addition to its "ad-hoc" expert role: why could the jury set up not advise on the project after the decision to designate the cities concerned right through to implementation?

To answer a number of criticisms, including the one that called for a taking into account of the new Member States, the Commission put forward a proposal in November 2003 in order to guarantee the participation of the new Member States in the "European Capital of Culture" event. For the years 2009 to 2018, a new Member State will be able to host a "European Capital of Culture" each year. From my rather more detailed presentation about "Luxembourg 2007", you will have guessed how important Luxembourg feels it is to involve the new Member States.

The proposal is currently before your Committee on second reading; the Council adopted one of your amendments on first reading, which aimed to guarantee appropriate Community funding for the designation of two "European Capitals of Culture" each year.

The Commissioner Mr Figel announced before your Committee and to the Luxembourg Presidency that he would present a proposal for a large-scale revision during the first half of 2005. Mrs Prets, rapporteur for the second reading, suggested that the European Parliament adopt the common position of the Council without amendments. The Luxembourg Presidency would welcome that and wishes to reach a definitive preference agreement within the Council in order to allow the new Member States to participate rapidly in the European Capital of Culture action up to 2018.

I announced to you that we shall be putting the new "rolling agenda" adopted under the Dutch Presidency to the test:

3. Cultural cooperation ("rolling agenda")

Since the Belgian and Spanish Presidencies, the Council has attached considerable importance to developing a new work plan for European cooperation in the field of culture.

In November 2004, it adopted conclusions relating to a new workplan in favour of culture for the period 2005-2006. This plan is structured around five priorities, which must be implemented in 2005 and 2006, in accordance with continuous programming, and intended to lead to tangible results:

• "within the framework of the Lisbon process: study of the role of creativity and the cultural industries in economic growth. (cultural tourism, cultural industries including the audiovisual sector)": the Luxembourg Presidency will deal with issues of cultural tourism and the cultural industries during specialised seminars.

• "coordination with regard to digitisation: giving citizens unlimited, sustainable and secure digital access to Europe’s cultural heritage, supporting the evolution towards a digital Europe through rapid dissemination of cultural knowledge, thus contributing to the implementation of a knowledge economy", the Luxembourg Presidency will participate in the work to draw up an action plan.

• "updating the European cultural portal (to improve the mobility of artists, the mobility of collections and the intercultural dialogue)": the Commission will propose a blueprint on the European portal in the first half of 2005.

• "mobility of collections (works of art, collections, exhibitions). A committee of experts on museology has been charged with drawing up recommendations to facilitate the mobility of European collections; the problems dealt with will include insurance (compensation), standards relating to guides and loan agreements, recording, digitization (cf. also the Lund action plan)": an ad-hoc report will be presented, under the Luxembourg Presidency, by the committee of experts set up under the Dutch Presidency.

• "mobility of persons: solutions will have to be found to the obstacles caused by taxation"; a report will be ready in the first half of 2006.

Mister President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned a definition of culture drawn up under the aegis of UNESCO twenty years ago. The Luxembourg Presidency is well aware of the responsibility that it has when helping to permit progress on the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity:

4. Draft UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity

On 14 January 2004, the European Parliament adopted a report by Mrs Prets on "the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity: the role of the European regions and international organizations such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe" (PE 312.571/DEF).

In October 2005, the General Conference of UNESCO is due to be sent a preliminary report accompanied by a preliminary draft of a convention on the protection of diversity of cultural content and artistic expressions. A first version of this preliminary draft convention was presented in July 2004 and the work has continued since then.

In early September 2004, the Commission submitted a recommendation to the Council with a view to authorising the Commission to participate, on behalf of the Community, in negotiations at UNESCO, and the Council adopted a negotiating mandated in November. In response to the request made by some delegations, the Commission then drew up an informal document on a draft code of conduct concerning negotiations at UNESCO, which was subject to an agreement between the Council, the Member States and the Commission. This draft code of conduct, which must be considered as a modus operandi for the implementation of the Commission’s mandate and the coordination with the Member States, is currently being examined within the Cultural Affairs Committee.

The Luxembourg Presidency will intervene at two levels:

• it will work on the adoption of the code of conduct which will facilitate relations between the Commission and the Member States in the implementation of the Commission’s negotiating mandate, at the forthcoming first meeting of the Cultural Affairs Committee; and

• it will provide the coordination between the EU Member States and act during the negotiations that will take place at UNESCO according to the joint practices drawn up and in accordance with the code of conduct.

Mister President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Luxembourg Presidency will organise a number of specialised events and meetings over the next six months. I will cite some of them, while referring you to the little brochure that we are currently producing about the programme of the Luxembourg Presidency for all the practical details. I shall be distributing a first version of the brochure at the end of this meeting.

5. Formal and informal Councils, colloquia and seminars

The Formal Council of Culture Ministers of 24 May 2005 in Brussels has a provisional agenda which is based on the items that I have already covered in my speech; we will be able to adapt the agenda to cope with any necessities that may arise.

The Informal Council which we are hosting on 26-27 June 2005 in Luxembourg will deal, in particular, even if "an Informal Council does not have an agenda", with quality of architecture and will enable Ministers to discuss the initiative launched by the Ministers of Culture at the Berlin Conference in December 2004 for a European Cultural Charter.

Concerning colloquia and specialised seminars organised by the Luxembourg Presidency, I shall settle for mentioning four of them:

• We are hosting a Second European Cultural Forum "Living Cultural Diversity: rediscovering Europe", in partnership with the Pierre Werner Franco-German-Luxembourg Cultural Institute.

From 15 to 17 April 2005, political scientists and historians, cultural creators and thinkers from Eastern and Western Europe will present their conception of this Europe that is to be rediscovered, or even redefined.

Themes that will be covered include "Visions of Europe after the Eastern enlargement", "European identities and European awareness", "Openness to the East: opportunities and risks". "The enlarged Europe as seen from the outside" and "The legitimacy of Europe". The workshops will analyse precise questions like action by cultural operators in favour of artists and creators in Eastern Europe, reciprocal views East/West of cultural policies in Europe or the perception of Europe by its cultural creators.

• We are organizing a seminar known as "A European policy in favour of cultural industries", in partnership with the Federation of European Editors Européens and the European Music Office, from 20 to 22 April.

The cultural industries, mainly the book and music industries, are of vital importance in the promotion and maintenance of cultural diversity, and in ensuring affordable access to culture.

These two industries have always been an important economic sector in terms of turnover and jobs. Together, book publishing and the music sector invest, produce and disseminate a wide range of content which educates, informs and brings leisure to the citizens of Europe. It is this creative content that people are looking for when they connect to the Internet. Book publishing and the music industry are at the heart of the information society.

If Europe wishes to become more competitive by 2010, it must devote its full attention to the growth potential of the book publishing and music sectors. These sectors are among the best performers in Europe, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as making a sizeable contribution to Europe’s trade balance. The book and music sectors consist of companies that are among the most professional and the most innovative, playing a key role in contributing to cultural diversity, a well-informed pluralist society and development of innovative content.

• A third seminar to which I would like to draw your attention will be organized together with the European Institute of Cultural Itineraries of the Council of Europe and is entitled: "Tourism and Culture – the challenge of European integration", from 20 to 22 April (also)

Tourism is an essential element of the economy of the majority of European countries and, although it contributes significantly to their wealth, it can also jeopardize major heritage sites, causing through over-visiting an impoverishment of cultures. In order to provide tools for management and governance of the tourism industries, the seminar will also highlight examples of good practice in tourism development, by choosing examples from the Member States of the European Union and those which will join it over the next few years.

• the Seminar on the quality of architecture which will be held in partnership with the European Forum on Architectural Policies on 27-28 June 2005:

The European Forum on Architectural Policies is an informal European platform, based on 3 constituencies, i.e. Ministries, professional associations and Institutes or Foundations, and plans two meetings per year that coincide with European presidencies.

The Forum has the aim of driving architecture forward in every field, including the promotion and funding of quality architecture, by writing this into European directives and regulations.

Mister President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of my speech, I would like once again to mention two initiatives which the Luxembourg Presidency will be supporting, since these are both initiatives that appeal particularly to us and which correspond to our policy guidelines:

We are particularly attentive to the development of the future Anna Lindh Foundation Euromed for Dialogue between Cultures, whose aim is

• to promote sectors of cultural convergence between the countries and peoples of the Mediterranean;

• to maintain a close and regular dialogue between cultural circles that are often outside the main diplomatic and cultural exchanges; and

• to facilitate exchanges, cooperation and mobility between people.

The Foundation will be based in the Library of Alexandria in coordination with the Swedish Institute in Alexandria. The launch of activites, with the assistance of the Luxembourg Presidency, is currently scheduled for 19 and 20 April 2005.

Furthermore, at the request of France, the Luxembourg Presidency will take part in the next ASEM Conference (Asia Europe Meeting) which is scheduled in Paris in the second week of June.

In its founding charter, ASEM proposes to foster "better understanding between the peoples of the two regions"; ASEM appears to be a particularly appropriate forum for developing a "dialogue of cultures and civilizations".

Much has been done since the Copenhagen Summit in September 2002 in this field, and in particular, the first meeting of the Ministers of Culture in Beijing in December 2003.  The Hanoi Summit (October 2004) gave new impetus to the development of this dialogue, envisaging priority areas of cooperation between the members of ASEM and calling on the Ministers of Culture to define a long-term action plan to promote dialogue between cultures and civilizations within ASEM, and increase cultural exchanges between Asia and Europe.

At the very time when I am speaking to you, a first preparatory meeting is taking place in Kuala Lumpur: the Luxembourg Presidency proposes to host the second preparatory meeting in Luxembourg.

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your patience.  Of course, I am at your disposal to take your questions which I will try to answer as best I can.

This page was last modified on : 20-01-2005

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