Last Friday I had one of my regular meetings with the British Culture Trade Unions to discuss developments in Europe. The picture shows me with from left to right Louise McMullen from Equity (thanks to Equity for hosting the meeting), Tony Lennon and Andy Egan from BECTU, Hatice Ozdemirciler of the UK Film Council and Peter Thoms from the Musicians Union. Here is the written report I provided them, I think it is a useful summary for anybody interested in the work of the Culture and Education Committee in the European Parliament. Regular readers may be familiar with some of these subjects already!
The Culture and Education Committee in 2009
Last September, I became the Coordinator of the Socialists and Democrats on the Culture and Education Committee. Carrying on the work from the previous Parliament, the Culture and Education Committee helped establish the European Year of Volunteering for 2011, which will help promote volunteering as an important part of our civic society. The Culture and Education Committee was also busy with the hearings for the new European Commission. Androulla Vassiliou, the new Culture and Education Commissioner, gave a convincing performance in her hearing and responded well to my question on how we might use culture and education to fight social inequality. If you would like to know more then please read my blog on the subject here.
Online Content and Creative Rights
In the last few months I have had the pleasure of taking part in numerous events and panel discussions focusing on the somewhat fraught issue of online content and creative rights. These debates have shown what a complex and emotive subject copyright can be. I have met with people from the Creative Industries at every level from across Europe, they have been very helpful and informative about this issue and their contributions will be most useful when we eventually draft legislation. The Commission’s recent reflections paper on the subject failed to give any concrete answers to this difficult problem and neither the Liberals nor the European Peoples’ Party seem close to developing an opinion on this important issue. Nevertheless, we will hopefully be seeing developments in the next few months, with a new report coming from the Commission, and a public hearing being held in March in the European Parliament. This is one of the big issues in the Culture and Education Committee, and as the Coordinator for the S&D group, I will be working with my colleagues to make sure we find the right solution.
One of the main things I hope to focus on in the next year is Vocational Qualifications. There is a push now to get Vocational Qualifications mutually recognised across the member states. Vocational Qualifications provide training and skills directly relevant to jobs, yet they are wrongly viewed by many as the “soft option”. It is time that we in the Parliament worked to change this perception. In this economic downturn, in a world of intensified global competition, with a high number of low skilled workers, and an aging population, Vocational Education and Training can play a key role in ensuring Europe’s future competitiveness and innovation.
The LUX Prize
As well as the important work of the Culture and Education Committee, I also have the privilege of participating in projects such as the LUX prize. The European Parliament awards a prize every year to a film that has relevance to issues surrounding Europe and the EU. This year’s nominees were all excellent; with Eastern Plays and Sturm coming a close second and third to the very moving French film, Welcome. I blogged on the issue so if you would like to know more then you can read about it here.
Future Work of the Committee
Regarding the next six months in the Culture Committee, there have been some encouraging signs from the Spanish, who hold the presidency for the next six months. Their culture minister, Angeles Gonzales-Sinde, gave an impressive presentation to the Culture and Education Committee where she stated that one of her top priorities was to consolidate culture as a significant factor in economic growth and social cohesion. I find this particularly encouraging as an MEP for London, where the Cultural industries are second only to finance in terms of economic importance. I am therefore looking forward to working with Mrs. Gonzales-Sinde to achieve this very important goal.