Cannes jury chief Patrice Chereau, Luc Besson and Wim Wenders are among the European talents who today join Gilles Jacob, EU culture commissioner Viviane Reding and a dozen ministers of culture to celebrate Cannes' first "Europe Day".

The event kicks off with a ministerial meeting focused on the changing shape of EU film policy sparked by the accession of ten east European countries. That is followed by a press call, inauguration of the International Village and a conference on Europe as a partner for cinema from elsewhere in the world.

"Europe Day is about showing the pride we have in Europe's cultural diversity. Expanding the EU to 25 does not dilute this, it strengthens it further," said Reding yesterday.

Although some of the former Soviet Bloc countries joining, notably Hungary and Poland, have adopted free trade policies that run counter to the the EU's "cultural exception" agreed at the final GATT round, Reding said, "New members to any club have to sign up to its rules."

Reding said that Europe Day will promote a strong film industry within Europe. "Cultural diversity is only a practical policy if the industry is strong," she said. "The problem of the European film industry is not the content, but the distribution systems, which are too national."

Reding rebutted recent suggestions by UIP chief Stewart Till that the creation of a pan-European releasing company is impossible in practical terms. "It is a dream of mine that a film like Amelie or Pot Luck (L'Auberge Espanol) would be distributed simultaneously from Athens to Helsinki."

Reding said that the Media Prize awarded at the end of the day will reward the European film that has been most successfully exported within Europe and seen by most people outside its country of production.