Berlin, 26 November 2006
The European Council of Artists (ECA) convened its annual conference "Rights and Wrongs? The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions One Year After" in Berlin on 24-26 of November.
Christine M. Merkel of the German UNESCO Commission remarked in her opening speech that the adoption of the Convention in October 2006 does not represent the end of a process but is the first step forward the creation of a popular movement of cultural organisations and networks to give the Convention on Cultural Diversity the same status as that which the Kyoto Protocol has for the environment.
Her statement was affirmed by Luxembourg MEP Erna Hennicot-Schoepges who asked for the creation of a cultural Greenpeace. She also underlined the need to strengthen art education in primary schools as an important tool for education of resulting in committed, sensitive citizens.
German visual artist Joachim Kettel in his analysis of globalisation and its implications for artistic work considered the global media's uniform perspectives to represent a threat for the diversity of artistic and cultural expressions.
ECA President Ludwig Laher addressed the conflict between the freedom of the arts and national legislations, outlining how the European Arrest Warrant may result in grave consequences for artists, as illustrated by the case of the Austrian cartoonist Gerhard Haderer who in 2005 was accused of blasphemy in Greece for works that were perfectly in accordance with Austrian law.
President of Tunisian Coalition for Cultural Diversity Zeyneb Farhat shared her views on the Convention from a Southern perspective, maintaining that difficult conditions for artistic production call for flexible approaches. While North American cultural industries pose a threat for Arabic and European art production alike, Arab artists feel that they are in an unequal position compared to their European colleagues.
Austrian MEP Christa Prets informed about the political process of establishing the Convention. Due to the unanimous backing from all parts of the political specter, it had been a positive experience and she assessed that the European Parliament's Cultural Committee will be open to future initiatives with respect to Convention's implementation.
Danish composer Pia Raug informed on the parliamentary process concerning the distribution of on-line music, seen from the NGO perspective. The struggle against the EU Commission's Recommendation, which places multinational producers' interest before creative artists' rights, has proved that the cultural and legal committees may listen to artists' demands.
Some 55 participants from 22 countries took part in the debates which were subsequently summed up by the ECA members at the organisation's annual congress which therefore affirmed the results by passing three resolutions:
- supporting for the EP Legal Committee draft report on on-line music distribution;
- requesting the EP Cultural Committee to put the European Arrest Warrant and its consequences on the agenda;
- backing protests of Spanish dance teachers who due an ill-thought reform in order to fulfil the Bologna Convention have lost their right to teach at institutions of higher learning.
A volume of proceedings from the conference will be published early next year.
The event was held in cooperation with the German Committee of International Association of Arts and the Berlin Art Academy, with support from the European Cultural Foundation, Berlin's Hotel Tiergarten, the German Federal Government's Commissioner for Culture and Media and the European Secretariat of Cultural NGOs in Germany.