Introduction to the Cannes International Conference on Cultural Exception Éric Garandeau, President of the CNC (French National Film Centre)


Cannes, 20 May 2013

Cultural exception is an issue of considerable importance and it is a major responsibility for CNC to organise an international conference on the issue. I would like to begin by thanking Aurélie Filippetti for placing her trust in us.

Roberto Olla will shortly explain to us exactly what is meant by Cultural Exception in terms of international law.
Let us make one thing clear from the outset: without Cultural Exception there would be no CNC and there would be no Festival de Cannes. Neither would there be art house cinemas, independent local bookshops, 600 new films per year or so many newspapers or books to read.
I am not going to read out a speech here on behalf of the CNC. We will be posting it directly online. Just a few words, therefore, on behalf the 28 CNCs who came together in a general meeting yesterday, the 28 public agencies or ministerial departments who provide 90% of support to European cinema, and the EFAD (European Film Agency Directors).
I say 28, because Croatia joined us at Cannes, as we have integrated Croatia into the European Union here. The Croatian Minister of Culture is with us this morning, as is my counterpart Hvroje. We hope they do not regret their decision to join the Union, because Croatia has already benefited from access to help from Média, Eurimage and also the French CNC – we have just today signed a co-production agreement. However, by entering the European Union our Croatian friends are now going to be faced with considerable problems – as are we on a daily basis – which leads us to feel a great solidarity with each other. We yesterday decided, therefore, to construct a joint platform of proposals for the funding of filmmaking and broadcasting in the digital era, of which the first results will be disseminated in the autumn. At the very least, the European Commission has succeeded in creating this feeling of Community-wide solidarity, even though our energies will paradoxically enough be directed AGAINST the European Commission, or at least against some of its services...
Our problems can be summed up in a simple phrase: the European Commission. Despite the vigilance and constant support of Ms Androulla Vassiliou and her teams – and let me thank her in the name of all 28 of us – the European Commission simply does not understand or respect Cultural Exception. We would go as far as to say that the European Commission is trampling all over Cultural Exception.
So what is Cultural Exception?
Cultural Exception is what enables us to escape from the rules of free trade. It is what enables us NOT to apply the rules of the single market, and NOT to respect competition law.
Cultural Exception is what enables the funding of private businesses who produce or distribute films. It enables us to discriminate according to the origin of goods and broadcasting services. It enables us to tax television and the Internet to fund European cinema. It enables us to obtain a media chronology with windows of exclusivity. It enables us to achieve collective management of copyright.
Now it seems clear to us, in every aspect of our filmmaking policy (to cite just that area), in every possible respect – copyright, media chronology, public funding, distribution taxes or tax credits – the European Commission, rather than encouraging member states to pursue and intensify their support for European cinema, is doing all it can to stop us from moving forward.
At heart, the free trade agreement with the United States is the embodiment of this policy. Having attacked everything which promotes Cultural Exception in Europe down to the SMALLEST DETAIL, the Commission is now laying into THE WHOLE INITIATIVE, by preparing to negotiate, with the United States,, a possible global challenge on the rules of exception.
For this reason the French government, but also 18 Culture Ministers representing 15 countries, have decided to stand up and speak out.
To think that they said to us, "Don’t worry, we are going to preserve Cultural Exception, but let us renegotiate it!", in light of everything we have lived through in the last decade – this gradual throttling of our ability to intervene to support our cinema, the unprecedented difficulties we have faced in the transition to the digital era, while the solutions are in fact at hand, and are being implemented much more easily in Korea or Brazil (who don’t have to deal with the European Commission)! No, in fact our trust has been abused too many times – these last weeks have been particularly bad (especially the communications on State aid) – for us to be able to trust the negotiators of the European Commission any more on this vital question. Besides, it’s difficult to see the point of discussing a theme for years, on which it has already been decided that there is nothing to negotiate...
I would like to conclude with a common sense observation: humanity has lived for many millennia without competition law, without free trade and without the European Commission. And that has not stopped us living and growing. But humanity has never existed without a living and socially organised culture because this is the very definition of humankind. The birth of humanity dates back to its invention of the world of culture, of cultures, the world of arts, ideas, religions, the caves at Chauvet and Lascaux. As Albert Camus said, “No people can live without beauty. They can survive for a while, and that’s all.”
Today competition law has come to dominate thinking: the single market has led to a single mentality. It is high time we reinjected some democracy and living thought into Europe, because no-one wants to live in a decaying fossil. What we want is a Europe of living cultures, in dialogue with each other and open to the world – the sort of Europe of which the Festival de Cannes is such a vibrant symbol.
This is the message I want to offer up in the name of the 28 directors of public film administrations in Europe.
Before I give the floor to Roberto Olla, the General Director of Eurimages, who will lead the discussion, let me welcome in particular the presence of our friend Christopher DODD, President of the American Motion Pictures Association, who will remind us – that contrary to what we might think, it is not the American studios who are demanding the destruction of Cultural Exception. No, the problem is home-grown, right here in Europe!
Thank you.