Creative Europe approved by European Parliament

The European Union’s Creative Europe framework programme has been given a resounding vote of confidence by the European Parliament.

A total of 650 of the MEPs voted for the programme’s text, 32 against and 10 abstained from voting in the plenary session in Strasbourg today. In fact, the European Commission (EC) was so convinced of the direction that the vote would take that it issued its press release about the MEPs’ decision even before the vote had been taken at 12noon on Tuesday. The seven-year programme from 2014-2020 will have an overall budget of $2bn (€1.46bn) - 9% more than current levels - and will support the cultural and creative sectors across Europe.

The programme will allocate at least 56% of its budget for the MEDIA sub-programme for audiovisual and the cinema and at least 31% for the Culture sub-programme for performing and visual arts. This broadly reflects the share of funding that the two areas currently receive. A maximum of 13% of the budget will be allocated to new cross-sectoral strand, which includes funding the new Creative Europe Desks and supporting the financial guarantee facility which is set to come into operation from 2016..

European Commissioner for Culture, Education, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou explained after the MEPs’ vote that the guarantee facility with a volume of $162m (€120m) would enable small cultural and creative businesses to access bank loans of up to $1bn (€750m) in the next seven years. Originally, the Commission had been hoping for a leverage of up to $1.35bn (€1bn) in loans until the Council of Ministers cut the overall budget for Creative Europe. The programme is due to be approved by the 28 member states of the European Union “in the weeks to come”, according to a Commission communiqué. One scenario sees the member states endorsing Creative Europe at a session on Dec 5. The programme’s calls for proposals and guidelines would then be issued in mid-December, with the first deadlines set for March and decisions on funding applications being made by August 2014.

BFI welcomes news

MEDIA Desk UK and the British Film Institute (BFI) welcomed the news. Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, said: “Creative Europe’s approval is a clear and very welcome recognition from the European Parliament of the importance of the creative industries to the wider economy and its major contribution to the growth agenda of Europe and the UK.

“It is more important than ever that culture is supported and I applaud the European Union’s financial commitment over the next seven years for the cultural, creative and audiovisual sectors. I wholeheartedly agree with President Barroso’s assertion that culture is not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘need to have’.”

Agnieszka Moody, director of MEDIA Desk UK, said: “This fantastic news heralds a new priority for collaboration and partnership in Europe, including enabling a closer relationships to be formed between audiovisual and other cultural and creative sectors.

“Increased financial support will enable a number of exciting and innovative new projects to come to fruition to the benefit of audience development across the UK and Europe, ensuring that UK films are seen in Europe and that UK audiences have access to European cinema.”

Creative Europe builds on the Culture and MEDIA programmes, which have supported the cultural and audiovisual sectors for more than 20 years. New actions for the MEDIA sub-programme include support for international co-production funds, video games and audience development, but no radical changes have been proposed for the changeover between MEDIA 2007 and Creative Europe. The main funding priorities continue to be training, development, TV programming, distribution, access to markets and festivals.

Mixed feelings

In the European Parliament’s final debate on the programme on Monday evening, Vassiliou said that she would, “of course, be much happier if the original increase to the budget of 37% had been accepted by the European Council, but in these times of austerity, we have to be satisfied with a small increase rather than a decrease.”

German MEP Doris Pack, chair of the EP’s Committee for Culture and Education, shared the Commissioner’s disappoitment at the lower budget than initially proposed, but added: “I don’t think we can complain as others are in a much worse state.”

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake noted that for the Liberal Group in the Parliament, “the key goal was to be more efficient by combining the programmes [MEDIA, MEDIA Mundus and Culture]. The Parliament had the problem of keeping this focus with some many amendments and long wishlists to chage the programme.

“A good addition is the access to private funding could help cultural and creative industries, but also increase the knowledge within the financial institutions about the cultural and creative sectors.”

Meanwhile, German Greens MEP Helga Trüpel pointed out that the Parliament had succeeded in preventing the Commission’s original proposals, which had envisaged the Creative Europe programme having “a one-sided economic orientation”, and in making clear that, “above all, small projects and non-profit organisations must also profit from the programme.”

Commission greenlights European funds

The MEPs’ vote came less than a week after the announcement by European Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia of a new Cinema Communication regulating state aid for films and audiovisual works. In a separate development, the European Commission has indicated that it has no objections to applications for extensions or modifications of funding schemes in Germany (Bavaria’s FFF Bayern), Belgium (tax shelter), France (volet relief), the Netherlands and Hungary (Hungarian Film Fund. Hungary’s direct grant and tax allowance scheme, for example, is now given the green light from Brussels for the period of Jan 1, 2014 until Dec 31, 2019.

Read the complete news at Screen International