Brussels EU quarters back to business

Brussels European quarters are back to business: traffic jams, overpopulated coffee places and queues to pass security into the institutions. Inside the European Parliament, the last carpets are being laid and furniture assembled in the 751 offices.

The Committees are up and running and MEPs are being pulled in all directions by lobbyists to join initiatives and pledges, while deciding which topics to take the lead on and which Intergroups to engage with.

Intergroups brings together MEPs across political groups and it's a place to exchange information, invite experts and prepare the ground for policy initiatives that are not on the agenda yet. Together with our colleagues from other cultural organisations, we have been calling for an intergroup that put creators in the spotlight, opposed to in the shadow of the creative industries. Currently there are two initiatives on the table: re-elected Dr Christian Ehler (DE, EPP) aims to continue the Intergroup on Cultural and Creative Industries in Europe, whom he co-chaired with Pervenche Berès (FR, S&D who did not seek for re-election) during the previous term. His new colleague Niklas Nienaß (DE, Green) has taken the initiative to encourage fellow MEPs to join in on a Cultural Creators Intergroup. We hope that it will result in at least one intergroup that will fit the interest of creators.

Among the returning MEPs with a culture profile is Sabine Verheyen (DE, EPP), who is serving her 4th term in the Parliament, and was elected Chair of the CULT Committee in July. She was co-rapporteur for the Audiovisual Media Services Directive with Petra Kammerevert (DE, S&D, returning too) during the last term. Among the new MEPs (nearly 62% of them), we identified and met with interesting cultural profiles such as Alexis Georgoulis (EL, GUE), an actor and producer of TV series and feature films, Ibán Garcia del Blanco (ES, S&D), a frontrunner MP for culture in Spain, and Laurence Farreng (FR, RE) who already took a strong stand in favour of authors’ rights and cultural diversity.

In the building across the Parliament, President Ursula von der Leyen has put forward her proposal for the future College of Commissioners. The main cultural responsibility will lay with Commissioner-designate Mariya Gabriel whose mission letter mentions that she will protect cultural heritage, promote creative industries, maximise the potential of the Creative Europe Programme and foster cultural cooperation, while Commissioner-designate for Internal Market, Sylvie Goulard, will be responsible for the digital economy and society and intellectual property rights, including authors’ rights, as part of a huge portfolio also covering industry and space. Margrethe Vestager, as an Executive Vice-President, should oversee her colleagues’ work with putting in practice ‘A Europe fit for the Digital Age’ and Vice-President Margaritis Schinas should harness the potential of culture when aiming to ‘Protecting our European Way of Life’ (whatever that means). 

To the disappointment of the cultural sector, culture was not mentioned in the title of Commissioner Gabriel. Culture Action Europe took the initiative to petition for Ms President von der Leyen to change this. The concern was widely shared during an event by Culture Action Europe on the 23 September. On the positive side, MEP Verheyen pointed out that although culture should be explicit, it can be seen as an opportunity that several Commissioners have a shared responsibility for it. Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary-General of Europa Nostra even thanked President von der Leyen for reminding us that culture should not be taken for granted and that when it is not mentioned (in the title of Commissioner Gabriel) it gives us reasons to discuss it.

We can expect that the absence of culture in the Commissioner’s title will be one of the questions raised by MEPs during their hearings with the Commissioners-designate, before casting their vote. As soon as the Commissioners are in place and the Parliament’s Intergroups established, our work will intensify to make sure that creators, and filmmakers in particular, are not left behind.

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