EC examines role of culture


BRUSSELS -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso launched a Europe-wide consultation on the role of culture in society Monday at a Brussels conference that gathered policymakers and artists.

Barroso invited Europe's "cultural actors and operators" to get involved in the debate over a new European Union policy on culture that will music, movies, broadcasting and other arts. "Our initial intuition is that culture needs more Europe and Europe needs more culture," he said.

Barroso was joined by EU Education and Culture Commissioner Jan Figel, the EC's Education and Culture Director General Odile Quintin and such cultural figures as German actress and singer Hanna Schygulla.

The conference will feed into a Commission report titled "Communication on Culture," due out in early spring. The paper will have two aims: developing active European citizenship while respecting cultural diversity, promoting intercultural dialogue and fostering a sense of "European identity"; and promoting the role of creativity in enhancing Europe's competitive edge.

The paper also will try to identify new cultural challenges and possible new avenues for tackling them.

An initial EC consultation already has delivered a major response from cultural groups. The U.K. Film Council said that technological and social adaptation to the digital environment needs to be at the top of the EU's cultural agenda, which meant providing "adequate copyright protection and at the same time a licensing regime that helps citizens to access their cultural heritage."

The European Broadcasting Union said that technological changes and globalization are likely to increase -- rather than diminish -- the danger of a "cultural divide" in which only parts of society will have access to quality content.

"The overarching aim of EU cultural policies should therefore be to foster the largest possible access of European citizens to culture," the EBU said.