European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou also talks about future funding for Locarno festival.

Official negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) on membership of the future Creative Europe programme are likely to begin in a matter of weeks.

Speaking to ScreenDaily at Ascona’s exclusive hideaway Castello Del Sole during this year’s Locarno Film Festival, European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou revealed that she had an informal talk with Federal Councillor and Interior Minister Alain Berset about extending Switzerland’s membership of the ccurrent MEDIA 2007 into the new framework programme.

“He personally said that he wants Switzerland to participate in both strands of Creative Europe for MEDIA and Culture,” she reported. “There are some difficulties which I understand because they need the approval of all of the Cantons for the Culture part of it, so there may be some delays. But, for the MEDIA strand, we can start immediately in September to get the mandate from the European Parliament and the Council and then begin negotiations.”

“I don’t think we will complete negotiations by the very beginning of the Creative Europe programme [in January 2014], but the sooner we are finished, the better for the Swiss,” Vassiliou continued. “We are prepared to have a call of proposals for Swiss applicants provided that the agreement has been finalised by the time the funded projects start.”

She explained that Switzerland’s financial contribution to Creative Europe would be calculated according the country’s population and its GDP.

According to the annual report of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture (BAK), the Swiss government provides $8.9m (CHF 8.27m) as a financial contribution for the EU’s current MEDIA Programme in 2013.

However, Vassiliou pointed out that there is no interest from the Swiss side to participate in the planned guarantee facility within Creative Europe.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner reported that she had had a “very productive” meeting with Locarno’s festival president Marco Solari, the new artistic director Carlo Chatrian, Head of International Nadia Dresti, and the festival’s COO Mario Timbal.

“Naturally, they are very anxious to see an agreement being completed between the EU and Switzerland so that there is a continuity of our cooperation,” she noted, adding that she was expecting a delegation probably led by Solari to visit her in Brussels “after September” to present an overall proposal of how a future partnership could be developed to support the Industry Days and associated initiatives.

She intimated that a framework agreement could be concluded with Locarno for a longer period than just one year, “especially in the area of training such as the Summer Academy where the initiatives have a lasting effect.”

Locarno’s 66th edition marked the Commissioner’s first visit to the festival. “I had intended to come to the festival for a long time because I had heard that it is completely different from the big festivals like Cannes and the Berlinale. And my experience here has been that this is indeed true,” she said.”¨I was also pleased to see a young person [Chatrian] taking over the reins of the festival, and I like the informality of the festival which addresses a wide spectrum of the audience,”

In addition to attending the screenings of Bruno Oliviero’s The Human Factor (La varabile umana) and Rawson Marshall Thurber’s We’re The Millers on the Piazza Grande and catching a Cypriot film in the Digital Library, Vassiliou was one of a select group of guests invited to attend the traditional “Diner républicain” with such VIPs as former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Swiss Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf for the presentation of the €50,000 European Prize for Political Culture to Germany’s Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Synergies and analyses

Turning to the issue of desired synergies between the MEDIA and Culture strands in the new Creative Europe programme, Vassiliou explained that the borderline between audiovisual and culture is becoming increasingly blurred, so there is more scope here for synergies: ¨We have the cross-sectoral strand which aims to encourage projects bringing the two sectors closer together, and this means that we may have specific calls for proposals for projects coming from both sectors.¨

And in response to the open letter sent to her and European Commission colleagues Almunia, Barnier and Barroso by the European Film Agency Directors about the proposed Cinema Communication, Vassiliou replied: ¨Of course, in my capacity as Commissioner for Culture, I am looking to see how I can protect culture. So, we shall try to find a balance between competition, the internal market and the realities of our cultural industries.¨

She agreed that Commissioner Almunia was “rather optimistic” to think that the Communication would be adopted in September — as indicated on his website after the (extended) consulation deadline of June 28 — and offered October as a more realistic date.

¨They are still analysing the various opinions and so, by the time we come to some kind of compromise, it will certainly not be before October,” Vassiliou suggested.