Switzerland's Federal Council has given its Office for Culture (BAK) the mandate to begin negotiations with the European Commission (EC) in Brussels on official Swiss participation in the European Union's new MEDIA 2007 programme, which was launched during last month's Berlinale.

According to a communique from Switzerland's Interior Ministry, it is expected that an extension of the bilateral agreement on MEDIA membership will be concluded by this summer.

The Swiss filmmakers had been excluded from MEDIA for 13 years after the Swiss population voted in December 1992 against membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). Then, as part of a bilateral agreement with the EC, the Swiss audiovisual professionals were finally able to participate fully in the EU's MEDIA Programme and MEDIA Training from April 1 last year. But this membership only lasted until December 31, 2006 when MEDIA Plus and MEDIA Training came to an end.

The Swiss government made a $5.6 million (Euros 4.2m) annual contribution last year towards the costs of the MEDIA Programme, but the forthcoming bilateral negotiations will decide on the future level of contribution for participation in MEDIA 2007.

The new MEDIA programme came into effect in mid-February with an overall budget of $1 billion (Euros 755m) to support measures in the fields of training, development, distribution, promotion and horizontal actions over the next seven years until 2013.