I have attended two meetings with European Cultural Ministers in the last year, the first of which was the formal Council of Ministers meeting under the auspices of the Luxembourg Presidency on 27 November 1997. The second was the informal Council of Ministers meeting under the Austrian Presidency in Linz on 11 September.
The main topic discussed at the meeting in November 1997 was the role of music in Europe in respect of which the Luxembourg Presidency had drawn up conclusions. The development of these conclusions and recommendations was initiated during the Irish Presidency. They were supported unanimously at the November meeting and presented to the European Commission for consideration in the development of European initiatives in the area of culture.
The meeting also discussed the European Commission's proposal, dated 4 November 1997, for a European Parliament and Council decision concerning a Community initiative in respect of the European City of Culture. The Council, on foot of a proposal developed during the UK Presidency, subsequently adopted a common position radically different from the European Commission proposal. It is still necessary to receive the views of the European Parliament on the European Commission's proposal before the basis on which the designation of European culture capitals will proceed after the year 2004 is formally established. There has been intergovernmental agreement to the designations up to the year 2004.
The main item on the agenda at the informal meeting in Linz on 11 September was the achievement of a common position on the first European Community Framework Programme in support of Culture, 2000-04, which was presented by the European Commission in May and which is to replace the current programmes in the field of culture — KALEIDOSCOPE, ARIANE and RAPHAEL. Ireland generally welcomed the European Commission's proposal and, in particular, the co-operative approach proposed. I did, however, express concern, which was shared by a number of delegations, that the proposed programme was directed towards supporting major emblematic projects and requested that it cater for small and medium-sized projects. The Austrian Presidency is seeking to achieve a common position.
The meeting also agreed to the proposal that the current programmes, ARIANE and KALEIDOSCOPE, be extended beyond the end of this year to ensure continued action in 1999 in advance of the adoption and implementation of the proposed single European programme.