The European film industry can probably not expect to be high on the agenda of the Commissioner-designate for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger if his grilling by the European Parliament (EP) last night is anything to go by.
In a 15-minute introductory speech, the 60-year-old German made no mention of Creative Europe or the film industry and was often “vague”, “woolly” or “superficial” in many of his answers to subsequent questions during the three-hour hearing, in the words of several Tweeters following the proceedings.
Most of the questions from 45 MEPs centred on such issues as net neutrality, data protection, and copyright, with the Commissioner-designate showing in some instances that he has catching up to do before he can speak more confidently about the transformations going on in the digital world.
The current Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, will be a hard act to follow, but some commentators during the hearing expressed their frustration at Oettinger’s responses.
In one exchange, he was asked how he would strike the right balance in the forthcoming copyright law reform, only to respond: “It is important to strike the right balance.”
Polish MEP Bogdan Zdrojewski, former Minister of Culture, asked Oettinger how he was “intending to undertake initiatives to support European film in all its diversity on the global market”.
In reply, the Commissioner-designate spoke only in general terms about not wishing to abandon cultural or linguistic diversity in the digital single market and pointing to film festivals and film prizes as playing a role in promoting European cinema.
Creative Europe split?
Speaking after the hearing on Monday evening, Italian MEP Silvia Costa, chair of the EP Committee on Culture and Education, remarked that her committee members are “a little concerned” about the future of the Creative Europe programme after the splitting of responsibilities for MEDIA and Culture between two Commissioners and two DGs.
“The operators inside these [sub-]programmes are a little afraid that this is not a very holistic approach to the new Programme because there media and cultural activities also have some links. So, we asked [Oettinger] to ensure that the management of the Programme will be very, very coordinated and we hope that this will happen.”
In an answer to the Committee, Oettinger refuted the claim that the Creative Europe programme had been split, with the MEDIA sub-programme becoming part of his future portfolio and Culture remaining under the auspices of the Commissioner-designate for Education Culture, Youth and Citizenship Tibor Navracsics.
“There is one Single Programme Regulation, and one Single Programme Committee,” he said. “I consider it part of our overall vision to ensure that each EU policy benefit from other policies’ achievements. I believe today I am in a better position than my predecessors to support culture in Europe as a whole and not only via one particular programme.”
As regards Creative Europe’s cross-sectoral strand, which would include the new guarantee facility from 2016, Oettinger noted - perhaps prematurely as his appointment has not been confirmed - that “my services and those of my colleague [Navracsics] are already putting in place the necessary arrangements for its effective delivery.”
Asked by the Committee how he intended to guarantee the protection and promotion of cultural and creative content and works, he replied that “Europe must be a source of growth and jobs in the media and content sectors, with more cross-border and globally successful creative content, and more innovative projects and services.“