Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fourth Report


(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 9 April 2002
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-xii (2000-01), paragraph 8 (25 April 2001) and HC 152-x (2001-02), paragraph 9 (12 December 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared (decision reported on 25 April 2001), but further information requested


  9.1  The Culture 2000 programme was adopted on 14 February 2000.[13] Article 7 of the Decision which established the programme provides for the participation, in principle, of the ten candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEECs). All have taken part in previous Community cultural programmes such as Ariane, Kaleidoscope and Raphael.

The current proposal

  9.2  On 25 April, we considered the current proposal, which establishes the budget so that the ten candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe can begin to participate. We noted that participation in the programme would allow the CEECs to become integrated in Community networks and other activities related to culture and would allow them to attend meetings of the Management Committee as observers when points which concern them are on the agenda.

  9.3  We cleared the proposal, but we 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 in Culture 2000 would be of benefit to both and asked what considerations were delaying their participation.

  9.4  In a reply dated 11 May 2001, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Chris Smith) said:

    "I understand that the European Commission did not include Cyprus and Malta in this batch of draft Council Decisions in order not to delay agreement on participation by these ten countries. Unlike theirs, the EU Association Agreements with Cyprus and Malta do not yet have the appropriate cultural clauses on which to base participation in Culture 2000. The Commission is working to bring forward the special protocols required in order to achieve this, but is presently unable to give any firm indication of when this might be finalised.

    "My officials will continue to monitor the situation and to press the Commission to complete this task. The proposals, when submitted, will come to the Committees in the usual way."

  9.5  When we considered this reply in December, the letter having only become available then, we asked the Minister to reply by 9 January with an update. At official level we were told that we could expect a reply in February. In response to a further request at that level in late March, we have now had the following reply from the Minister of State for the Arts at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone):

    "Your Committee's Tenth Report of the current session sought further information on the participation by Cyprus and Malta in the Culture 2000 programme. I would have hoped by now to be able to report that all the procedural hurdles had been negotiated, but I am regrettably still unable to do so.

    "My officials have pursued the Commission assiduously on this point, but progress has been frustratingly slow and the formalities allowing both countries' participation in the programme have yet to be completed. This delay is unfortunately all too redolent of the Commission's handling of the programme as a whole. My Department's representative on the Culture 2000 Management Committee was informed a few weeks ago that a Commission delegation was due to visit Cyprus and Malta at the end of March to complete the process which would allow both countries to participate in the programme. The Easter break, coupled with the Commission's opaque approach to communication, has meant it has not been possible in advance of your meeting this week to determine what progress was made on that visit. We shall continue to pursue this matter, and I shall let you know as soon as we have a clear answer."


  9.6  We thank the Minister for her response. We regret that her officials had to be pressed to provide us with a reply and ask that in future the Department takes responsibility for ensuring that our requests are not lost sight of.

  9.7  We note that the Minister is not content with the Commission's performance in handling this programme and we ask her whether the Government has taken any steps to make its views known to the Commissioner responsible, or to senior officials in the Directorate General.

  9.8  We have already cleared the document.

13  (20903) 3638/99; see HC 23-vii (1999-2000), paragraph 8 (2 February 2000). Back

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