The UK Government is spending£12,000 to back a London film festival showcasing Eastern European film - in a bid to help raise awareness of the planned enlargement of European Union in 2004.

The New Europe Film Season opened at London's Barbican Screen on Thursday (19 September).

According to a Foreign Office spokesperson the money spent on the festival is part of a plan to raise awareness of the 13 countries that are candidates for membership of the European Union in 2004. Recent research suggests 60% of the UK public cannot name a single one of the countries set to join.

Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane said: "We have a responsibility to tackle this great knowledge gap."

The festival films have been chosen with the help of representatives from the 13 countries' embassies in Britain.

"A diverse selection of films will be presented, including Czech director Jan Hrebejk's black comedy Divided we Fall, Latvia's Dangerous Summer directed by Aigars Gruaba and Slovenia's Gone With The Train directed by Igor Sterk. 21 films will be shown in total.

The 13 candidate countries for EU membership are: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Turkey.