Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia could be among six potential new members of the European Union’s (EU) forthcoming Creative Europe programme, which is expected to begin operations from January 2014.

Speaking at a discussion about cooperation between East and West at this week’s Odessa International Film Festival’s Industry Programme, the European Commission’s Irina Orssich explained that accession candidates countries or countries bordering the EU - such as Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - could negotiate to have full participation or sign bilateral agreements for specific actions.

Key prerequisites for full participation in Creative Europe would be for any of these countries to have the World Trade Organisation’s ¨most-favoured-nation¨ exemption of the audiovisual sector and respect of certain conditions laid down in the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) directive.

Alternatively, a national government could decide to conclude a bilateral agreement with the European Commission on specific actions in the future framework programme.

¨Tbilisi Declaration¨ on Creative Europe

The panel discussion in Odessa, which was also attended by Katriel Schory, Executive Director of the Israel Film Fund, and former UK film funding executive Tanya Seghatchian, followed in the wake of the first Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture, which was held in Tbilisi and had brought ministerial delegations from the region together with Culture and Media Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.

In a subsequent so-called ¨Tbilisi Declaration¨, representatives from the six countries welcomed ¨ the possibility for Eastern Partners to fully participate in the Culture and MEDIA strands of the [Creative Europe] programme, on a equal footing with EU Member States and candidate and potential candidate countries, provided a number of technical conditionalities are fulfilled.¨

Consequently, they called on the EU ¨to facilitate and, if necessary, to co-finance the participation of the Eastern Partnership countries in the Creative Europe programme.¨

Directors Across Borders

The EU has been supporting this region with €9m through the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme since 2011.

One of its most recent backed activitieswas the Directors Across Borders Regional Co-Production Forum held last week during the Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan from July 9-11.

12 feature film projects were selected for presentation to visiting international industry figures and included two titles which have been picked for Locarno’s South Caucasus focus at the Open Doors co-production lab next month - Levon Minasian’s The Second Journey (Armenia/France) and Nora Martirosyan’s Territoria (Armenia/Italy) - as well as Moldovan film-maker Dumitru Marian’s All Roads To Lead Rome, Kai by Ukraine’s Oleg Sentsov, and Mariam Khatchvani’s Dede (Georgia).

An expert jury including Hong Kong International Film Festival programme consultant Raymond Phathanavirangoon, Sofia Meetings manager Mira Staleva, and German producer Simon Amberger awarded three development grants to Dede by Georgian director Maria Khatchvani and Vladimer Katchavara, Blood Money by Turkey’s Kivanc Sezer and producer Soner Alper, and A Song For Nola by Armenian film-makers Emil Mkrttchian, Hasmik Hovhannisyan and Arevik Avanesyan.

Bosnia & Herzegovina becomes MEDIA’s 33rd member

Against the background of discussion on the Eastern Partnership countries joining Creative Europe some time in the future, it was announced that Bosnia & Herzegovina had at last signed the ¨Memorandum of Understanding¨ on July 10, making it the 33rd member country of the EU’s MEDIA Programme.

Membership of MEDIA is seen as one further stage in Bosnia’s ¨pre-accession strategy¨ to becoming a full member of the European Union which saw its latest addition - Croatia - join the European family on July 1.

Creative Europe programme one step nearer

Meanwhile, finalisation of the nuts-and-bolts for Creative Europe came one step nearer yesterday (July 17) at a meeting in Brussels of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER I).

The Member States’ ambassadors to the EU agreed on the compromise text of the Regulation establishing the framework programme, with a view to allowing the Lithuanian Presidency of the European Council to now go forward with the last stage of negotiations on the file with the European Parliament.

COREPER I’s chairman Arunas Vinciunas pointed out that most of the file had been dealt with under the Irish Presidency in the past six months, but Lithuania had since been able to conclude discussion on such outstanding issues as the co-financing rates and budgetary allocations for Creative Europe.

The overall budget for the seven-year programme from 2014-2020 -which will bring three currently self-standing programmes CULTURE, MEDIA and MEDIA MUNDUS under a single umbrella - is now set at € 1.462 bn.

Lithuania’s Minister of Culture Sarunas Birutis had already informed the European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee last week that the negotiations with the Parliament had been ¨carried out in a highly constructive working atmosphere and I think the achievements achieved will satisfy the expectations of both the Parliament and the Council, and most importantly, the expectations of the culture and audiovisual sectors.¨

Outlining the Lithuanian Presidency’s priorities for the next six months, Birutis suggested that his country was ¨ also ready to initiate discussions concerning the challenges of distribution of digital content in examining the issue of the distribution of European film in the digital era. One of the key issues to be addressed is the digitisation of films and cinemas and the online distribution of films.¨