Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fourth Report


5. PARTICIPATION BY THE CEEC APPLICANTS IN CULTURE 2000


(22247 - 22256)
7072/01 - 7081/01
COM(01) 128

Draft Council Decision on the Community position within the Association Council on the participation in the Culture 2000 programme of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and the Republics of Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Legal base:Article 151 EU; consultation; unanimity
Department:Culture, Media and Sport
Basis of consideration:Minister's letter of 7 June 2002
Previous Committee Report:HC 28-xii (2000-01), paragraph 8 (25 April 2001); HC 152-x (2001-02), paragraph 9 (12 December 2001) and HC 152-xxiv (2001-02), paragraph 9 (17 April 2002)
Discussed in Council:Adopted on different dates between 29 June 2001 and 25 January 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared (decision reported on 25 April 2001), but further information requested


Introduction

  5.1  The Culture 2000 programme was adopted on 14 February 2000.[10] The current proposal establishes the budget so that the ten candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEECs) can begin to participate by becoming integrated in Community networks and other activities related to culture. It will also allow them to attend meetings of the Management Committee as observers when points which concern them are on the agenda.

  5.2  We cleared the proposals on 25 April 2001, but asked the Minister to seek a statement from the Commission on the prospects for the inclusion of Cyprus and Malta in the Culture 2000 programme. Both are applicant countries with an important cultural heritage to protect. We suggested that early participation would be of benefit to both and asked what considerations were delaying their participation.

  5.3  On 28 November 2001, we received a reply dated 11 May 2001 from the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Chris Smith). He said that the EU Association Agreements with Cyprus and Malta did not have the appropriate cultural clauses on which to base participation in Culture 2000. The Commission was working to bring forward the special protocols required in order to achieve this. His officials would continue to monitor the situation and to press the Commission to complete the task. The proposals, when submitted, would come to the Committees in the usual way.

  5.4  When we considered this reply on 12 December, we asked the Minister to reply by 9 January with an update. On 9 April, the Minister of State for the Arts at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone) said that her officials had pursued the Commission assiduously, but progress had been frustratingly slow and the formalities allowing both countries to participate in the programme had not been completed. This delay, she said, was unfortunately all too redolent of the Commission's handling of the programme as a whole. She said that the Government would continue to pursue the matter, and would let us know as soon as it had a clear answer.

  5.5  We regretted that the Minister's officials had to be pressed to provide us with a reply and asked that in future the Department should take responsibility for ensuring that our requests are not lost sight of. We noted that the Minister was not content with the Commission's performance in handling this programme and we asked her whether the Government had taken any steps to make its views known to the Commissioner responsible, or to senior officials in the Directorate General.

The Minister's letter

  5.6  The Minister starts by saying that she has instructed her officials to ensure that the Committee is kept informed of progress in future. She then says:

"I can also confirm that the Government has consistently made its views on the shortcomings of the Culture 2000 programme clear to the Commissioner and her officials. I have discussed this with Viviane Reding, and our representatives on the programme's management committee have pursued the subject vigorously with Director General Van der Pas and his team. We are not alone in our criticisms of the management of the programme. Most of the other EU Member States and other participating countries share our view. Rather than simply excoriate the Commission, however, my officials have worked diligently within the framework of the Management Committee with the Commission and others to address the problems. The UK is perceived as a constructive critic of the programme, and the overall situation has improved significantly, although it has taken two years to get this far and there is still much that remains to be done.

"In this context, the question of Cyprus and Malta's participation in the programme is a fairly marginal one. Given their size, and using Luxembourg as an indicator, it would seem likely that cultural organisations from those countries are only likely to be involved in a handful of projects supported by the Culture 2000 programme. Nonetheless, I can now confirm that both countries will be eligible to participate in the programme from 2003. A call for applications for the 2003 programme is due to appear in the Official Journal within the next few weeks, and organisations from Cyprus and Malta will be listed among those eligible to apply".

Conclusion

  5.7  It has certainly been a struggle to extract information from the Commission and the Government on participation by Cyprus and Malta in this programme. Their participation may be marginal in terms of the programme as a whole, but this does not justify treating small applicant states in such a dilatory fashion.

  5.8  We cleared the documents in April last year. We now await submission of the proposals for Cyprus and Malta.


10  (20903) 3638/99; see HC 23-vii (1999-2000), paragraph 8 (2 February 2000). Back


 
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