Pan-European production fund Eurimages is mulling how it can extend cooperation beyond the borders of its 36 member states, executive director Roberto Olla revealed at a Film Forum panel on the body on Wednesday.

“We have set up a study group to reflect on how to extend relations to other non-European countries. We’re considering the possibility - the if and when - of cooperating with non-European countries,” he said. “No decision has been taken as yet but we’re certainly interested otherwise a study group would not have been created but of course the implications are many and complex.”

He was speaking at a presentation of the Strasbourg-based fund which gap finances some 30 to 40 films a year up to €500,000. Under current rules, projects must have two member state producers accounting for 70% of the budget attached and 50% of the budget in place.

The body is currently holding its end-of-year board meeting at DIFF – at which it will select the fourth and final round of projects for 2012. It is the first time the meeting has been held in a non-member country.

The initiative was spearheaded by Italy’s Eurimages representative Alessandra Priante [pictured], who is also her Italian cultural attaché for the Gulf area.

Describing Eurimage’s presence in DIFF as  more than ‘symbolic’, Priante said the time was ripe for the European film industry to start working more closely with filmmakers in the Gulf and beyond in the Middle East.

“We’re here to exchange views and make direct connections,” she said of the Eurimages presence. “Not many people in the Gulf know about us and we definitely don’t know enough about the Arab film industry.”

“There are a lot of misconceptions about this part of the world – that this is the land of money, for example. In reality, what I recognise and admire, is that they (Emirati filmmakers) are trying to build their own cultural identity in the 2012. I think we have the duty to ensure that cultural diversity has a chance.”