“Gleichmacherei – Harmonisation shall not mean levelling down”

3 Questions to Christian Ehler, Member of the European Parliament, co-chair of the intergroup on creative industries

The European Parliament recently started an intergroup on the cultural and creative industries. One of the co-chairs is MEP Christian Ehler (EPP). Netopia asked him about the initiative.

 Per Strömbäck: Why are you interested in the creative sector?

Christian Ehler: The creative and cultural sector is central to the European story: The Treaty of Lisbon calls on the European Union to contribute to the flowering of the diverse cultures of its Member States. For the European Parliament this must mean cherishing and embracing our multifaceted creative cultures across the continent and helping them to prosper. Literature, music and theatre, magazines and newspapers, TV and cinema, arts and architecture as well as design – creative industries enrich our daily lives beyond measure and define our cultural identities. Besides this immense intangible value, creative industries in Europe make a substantial contribution to the EU economy, creating more than €550 billion in value added to the GDP and providing 8.3 million full-time jobs. Altogether, they provide jobs for more than 13 million Europeans.

It was about time to create a forum for cross-party and cross cultural political debate, which is why my colleague Mme Berès and I founded the Intergroup on Cultural and Creative Industries in Europe. The idea has been supported by all political groups and in the meantime the Intergroup “Creative Industries in Europe” has become forum for cross-committee and cross-party debate in the European Parliament.

On a different, more private note: I grew up in theatrical circles – my parents being authors and dramatists I always had a penchant for culture and creativity.

PS: What are the consequences of the Commission’s proposed Digital Single Market strategy for the creative sector?

CE: The Single Market is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements. The EU Commission recently made a proposal to also complete the Digital Single Market. The strategy tackles issues such as improvement of cross-border e-commerce, reskill the workforce and foster the digitalisation of SMEs – in my view an important initiative that could create more jobs for the creative sector. In recent years, the digital revolution has caused great perturbation in the sector and its various fields. All core creative industries, except for TV broadcasting and movie production, record a perpetual decline in their traditional lines of business. ICT-related activities, on the contrary, show a significant growth rate, mostly driven by web development, data processing and computer software programming, increasing the sector’s overall demand for capital and risk financing. Facing such substantial challenges, policy solutions will have to be found at EU level. The Commission proposed the completion of the Digital Single Market is a great opportunity to tap the full potential of digital technologies – for consumers and industry! But when negotiating and implementing the concrete actions we have to take into consideration the specifics and the heterogeneity of European Market in particular in the field of culture and creativity. Harmonisation shall not mean levelling down (= Gleichmacherei). A holistic approach is therefore indispensable to avoid piecemeal solutions and failed reforms.

PS: What is the single most important policy decision for the creative sector?

CE: At the moment Europe’s Creative Industries find themselves in the centre of important fields of EU policy action such as the upcoming copyright reform, the Digital Single Market proposal and the development of new approaches discussing new approaches to funding and financing European cultural entrepreneurs, to name just a few. These days the debate on the upcoming copyright reform particularly dominates the political discussions – but I would like to highlight that this sector is so much more than copyright: The sector represents architecture, archives and libraries, artistic crafts, audio-visual (including film, television, video games and multimedia, cultural heritage, design (including fashion design), festivals, music, performing and visual arts, publishing and radio.

The cultural and creative sector in Europe may be diverse – but by and large, all actors share the same concerns, such as access to finance, promoting young talent and skill development, fostering innovation etc. The views on certain aspects may differ – but it’s time that the key actors recognize their common bond. And it’s time to bring together all the existing instruments and initiatives on a national and European level. A comprehensive industry strategy for the creative sector should be the first and – in my opinion – the most important step!

Facing the complexity of the cultural and creative industry sector though, there cannot be a single policy decision to solve every need. The sum of coordinated policy efforts will make the difference. Such as for example the recent initiative of the European Parliament aimed at improving access to finance for creators:

On the basis of an initiative of The Intergroup on Cultural and Creative Industries the European Parliament pushed forward an important initiative for the creative industries in Europe: The Parliament demanded that the creative sector becomes one of EFSI’s dedicated areas of investment. The original demand was put forward by the Parliament’s industry committee and has been incorporated into the final version of the Juncker Plan.

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