European commissioner meets delegation including Amanda Nevill, Peter Dinges to discuss cultural diversity.

European commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has expressed sympathy with continuing concerns voiced by the European Film Agency Directors (EFAD) about proposed changes to the rules on ‘territorialisation’ in a new Cinema Communication.

Together with members of the European Commission’s (EC) MEDIA unit, Vassiliou met with a delegation from the EFAD’s membership, led by Frédéric Delcor, CEO of Belgium’s Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Communauté française, who is also head of the EFAD state aid working group.

The delegation consisted of:

·      BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill

·      BFI head of strategic development Carol Comley

·      Peter Dinges, CEO of Germany’s FFA,

·      Gisela von Raczeck, representative to the EU for the FFA, German Films and the German regional funds,

·      Michel Plazanet, CNC’s assistant director for European and International affairs and consultant Gabrielle Guallar,

·      Chiara Fortuna and Mario Latorre from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBAC),

·      and Péter Staviczky representing the Hungarian National Film Fund.

The meeting was held after EFAD had sent a letter to EC president José Manuel Barroso and commissioners Almunia, Barnier, and Vassiliou before the summer recess warning the Commission of the consequences of its proposed changes to the territorialisation guidelines.

The agency directors had called on the EC “to adopt a more flexible approach and demonstrate its commitment in favour of cultural diversity by finding the appropriate equilibrium between the internal market rules and the cultural nature of the film sector.“

According to advice given by Philip Lee Solicitors to James Hickey, CEO of the Irish Film Board, “the radical overhaul reflected in the terroritorial provisions proposed in the latest draft Communication (i.e. shifting from allowing Member States to provide that up to 80% of the production budget must be spent on local goods and services to a blanket ban on any provisions requiring expenditure on local goods and services) is disproportionate to the aim to be achieved and serves to undermine the development of audiovisual production activities in the Member States.”

“In our view,” Lee argued, “territorial rules should be interpreted and applied so as to permit Member States to insist that a certain percentage of the production budget is spent on local goods, services or workers where the Member State is contributing financially (either through grant funding, tax incentives or otherwise) to the production of the audiovisual work.”

Speaking exclusively to Screen Daily, Commissioner Vassiliou’s spokesman Dennis Abbott reported that the Commission is “still analysing feedback from its lengthy consultation on the new communication.”

Originally, Brussels had set a deadline of the end of May for public responses to its consulation, but this was then extended by another four weeks until the end of June.

The public responses were then published in July, but the announcement on the consultation website that the Cinema Communication would be adopted in September has proven to be overly optimistic.

Abbott added that EFAD representatives are also due to meet with the chief of staff of competition policy commissioner Joaquin Almunia in Brussels this week.

Almunia, whose directorate-general is responsible for the drafting of the Cinema Communication, had come in from criticism from the French producers’ group L’ARP last month for not responding to their growing concerns about the new criteria for state aid.

In a letter sent to EC president Barroso and signed by Claude Lelouch, Costa Gavras, Raoul Peck and Michel Hazanavicius, among others, the film-makers had reiterated their fears for the cultural diversity and infrastructure of the European film industry if the Communication as planned was adopted.

Swiss government issues mandate

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s Federal Council has officially issued the mandate for negotiations to begin with the European Union on the extension of its membership of framework programmes in such areas as research, innovation, education and film funding from January 2014.

Despite the short time frame, the Swiss want to ensure that their local film community can participate in the new Creative Europe framework programme from next January without any interruption.