IMPALA report on Cultural Forum For Europe
Lisbon 26 & 27 September 2007

The Portuguese Presidency organised this Cultural Forum to advance on the EC Communication on culture. This event aimed at helping the EC to develop its policy in defining priorities for the new European agenda for culture.

This event took place in the context of the following important developments:

  1. The study on the economy of culture which underlined the essential role of creative industries in the European economy;
  2. The adoption of the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity which has to be implemented in EU policies;
  3. The conclusions of the European Council on the potential of the cultural and creative SMEs in Europe which need to be converted in concrete actions;

The Forum gathered cultural stakeholders from various areas to discuss Commission cultural policy. The conclusions will be conveyed to decision-makers (representing Member States and EU Institutions) and discussed during the EU Council on culture which will be held on the 15th and 16th of November.

The Forum was organised in workshops around three main issues:

1 – Intercultural Dialogue
2 – Economy of Culture
3 – Europe and the rest of the World

IMPALA participated in the second workshop on economy of culture with Anthony Lilley as moderator (Chief Executive of Magic Lantern Productions) and Andrej Horvat as Rapporteur (Former State Secretary for growth in Slovenia). During this workshop, three other experts made presentations on the following issues:

  1. Creative Industries: source of growth, competitiveness, employment, and innovation
  2. Entrepreneurship in the cultural sector: meeting the new challenges
  3. Financing sources: the need for creativity

IMPALA was one of the main participants in the debate from the floor. Its interventions were focused on key elements we consider essential to be taken into consideration.
- SMEs are recognised at EU level as key actors of innovation, creativity, growth and employment. However, chronic problems of under capitalisation and over concentration affect SMEs in all creative sectors.

- The music market is composed of 99% SMEs. Market access measures for creative industries are necessary in more and more closed markets, as are financial measures and an overhaul of competition rules.

- EC and member states should address these problems to reverse the trend:

*Need to support diversity of entrepreneurship in creating conditions for a better environment for creative SMEs;
*Need for support measures for better market access;
*Need for better financial measures in accessing existing funds and creating new financial tools. Some precedents exist like tax credit in France and Italy. Innovation and R&D tax credits could also be grafted onto the creative sector;
*Need to promote cultural diversity in implementing the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity and the communication on culture with useful practical measures;

IMPALA was also asked to make a short written contribution summarising the practical needs of SMEs. This was included in full (along with three other contributions) as part of the final report of the workshop on the economy of culture (now available online):

“Impala, Independent Music Companies Association

One of the key strategies of the development of Europe's agenda for culture is to re-dynamise the real innovators - creators and small business. We need pluralism and diversity of entrepreneurship. Culture needs to lead economy. 2 key elements to achieving this:

  1. Financial access measures - new financial instruments - national and EU, including proper creative bank, accounting rules that value IP properly, revision of VAT status of cultural products.

  2. Market access measures to combat concentration and overcome problems of scale which are endemic in the creative sector - competition guidelines, market access measures such as those in broadcasting regarding independent production, positive discrimination, assistance for collective mechanisms to build structural capacity (e.g. licensing, joint marketing).

Considering the key role of SMEs with regards to innovation and diversity in the creative sector, there is a need to ensure their market access and competitivity in general, as well as effective merger control and merger remedies, and proper state aid rules.

In short, the current market structure and lack of financial independence and stability stifles innovation and diversity. It is not a liberal or innovative market.

What would a truly innovative, diverse and competitive market look like if we were starting over?

This is the kind of exercise that needs to be carried out across key EC policy areas if culture is to be properly mainstreamed in order to achieve Lisbon's economic and social goals.”

IMPALA had a short meeting with Commissioner Jan Figel to briefly discuss our priorities. He confirmed that he would repeat the MIDEM breakfast in January.

President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso and Culture Commissioner, Jan Figel made closing speeches. The following are pertinent extracts from their respective speeches:

Jan Figel: “ In the knowledge era, creativity has become a crucial factor for economic competitiveness and social cohesion. The links between creativity, innovation and the cultural sectors are worth exploring, from art education in our schools to the contribution cultural industries can make to sustainable growth and better jobs.”          

Jose Manuel Barroso: “Investment in culture really does contribute to the strategic priorities of the European Union. The most obvious contribution is social and economic. The European cultural and creative sectors are a dynamic trigger for economic activities and jobs throughout the EU. This contribution is gaining recognition in the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs. Your sectors of activity are now seen as key elements for Europe's economic revival in view of their role as drivers of growth, job creation and innovation. The cultural sector contributes more to Europe's gross domestic product than the car or the chemical industries!(…) And for us, culture is part of Europe's extraordinary potential. We must use it to the full.”
I want to stress that cultural and economic objectives are not mutually exclusive. I am firmly convinced that Europe's cultural diversity is one of its most powerful assets in the global economy.”

Follow up
IMPALA will attend the EC’s specific creative industries conference, which will again be in Lisbon as part of the Portuguese Presidency priorities. This conference will build on the conclusions of the creative economy part of the Cultural Forum and will play a crucial role in developing the priorities that will be enshrined in the EC’s ‘agenda for culture’.