The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union will meet Friday to discuss proposed trade talks between the EU and the U.S. which could result in the removal of trade barriers between the world’s two biggest economies. A negotiation mandate is expected to emerge from the meeting, but 7,000 European and international filmmakers are urging officials to keep the audiovisual and film industries off the table.
A delegation including directors Costa Gavras, Cristian Mungiu, Lucas Belvaux, Radu Mihaileanu and The Artist star Bérénice Bejo was in Strasbourg today to meet with European Commission president José-Manuel Barroso. The plan was to reiterate their stance of preserving the Cultural Exception, a concept with roots in the 1993 GATT talks which holds that cultural goods and services be treated differently than others. According to ARP, the French lobby that reps writers, directors and producers, the sit-down did not go so well. Barroso was “obstinate in his refusal,” the group said. He “hid behind speech that brings no guarantee of respect for the Cultural Exception and which seriously compromises the future of European cultural policy.” The arts are part of a draft negotiation mandate for the trade talks and their inclusion, the filmmakers believe, threatens to kill the autonomy of EU member states’ individual film industries.
France has already threatened to block any talks should the Cultural Exception not be preserved and ARP noted that Barroso was also “deaf to the position of the European Parliament” which voted in favor of excluding culture from the trade talks.
ARP was representing the thousands of filmmakers who have now signed a petition entitled “The Cultural Exception Is Non-Negotiable!” which began circulating in April. In Cannes last month, a group led by Costa Gavras, Michel Hazanavicius and The Weinstein Company co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, crashed a panel on “Strengthening The Cultural Exception In Tomorrow’s Europe” to speak about the issue. Hazanavicius told Deadline at the time, “Our fear is if they kill our regulatory system, it will crush us.”