German Commissioner for Culture: TTIP with the US is a "major opportunity"

(PresseBox) (Bonn, ) In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters welcomed the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as a "major opportunity for Germany and Europe's creative industries."

She personally ensured that a reference to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was included in the text of the mandate, which prevents either partner from introducing liberalization and trade obligations in the arts and culture sector beyond prescribed borders. Grütters said, as the creative economy is second only to that of the automobile industry, the new agreement is expected to create a "vast number of new jobs."

However, she conceded that Europe and the US have very different approaches to arts and culture funding. "Only 13 percent of arts and culture is state-funded in the US, while the rest is sponsored privately," she said. In contrast, 87 percent of Germany's arts and culture is state-funded. "When private persons support theater or art, they expect it to represent their own interests," explained Grütters. "In Germany we have a different viewpoint. We believe that in order to guarantee freedom of artistic expression, it must be upheld and protected by the state with generous funding." She cited opera as an example. "If we want it to have a stimulating effect on society, culture must be aesthetically diverse, edgy and challenging, and that is our responsibility," she said. "Only when their funding is secure are artists at liberty to experiment."

Culture and identity: We need free spirits

Grütters also said, she believed that the creative industries should get involved in the debate about Internet freedom. She told Deutsche Welle that she understood public concerns, observing that antitrust law must be applied to Google. "It needs to be told that the values that apply to pubic life on the street must also apply to the digital world, where people cannot simply do as they please," she said. Moreover, when a company such as Amazon resorts to "methods that amount to blackmail in its pursuit of profit, then there needs to be public debate on altering consumer behavior," she stressed. "This is the only language the major players understand."

Grütters also discussed how arts and culture help shape society and nations. On the one hand it is important "to identify cultural heritage and to protect it," but on the other hand, she said, "society is kept alert by creativity, by the people with an avant garde sense of what matters, who discover new issues, push the envelope and blaze a trail, who might sometimes be confrontational and a thorn in our side. That is why we need these free spirits," said Grütters, "to sow the seeds of progress, so that we don't stagnate or once again fall victim to totalitarian thinking."

Grütters went on to describe the artists as "motors of integration" and "key to establishing social foundations."Their job is to hold up a mirror to society when we fail to recognize what is happening," she said, such as the NSA surveillance scandal, which was "closely observed by writers."

"Public debate does us all good," she said.

Looted art: "We need to show the world that we will not forget"

Referring to the ongoing issue of looted art, Grütters said that plans for a German Lost-Art database would "most probably be cemented by the end of this year - the foundation, the advisory boards, the supervisory bodies as well as a doubling of the available funding." She stressed how proud she was of the project, "as an undertaking on this scale, involving all stakeholders, has rarely succeeded with such rapidity in Germany." She said that in her opinion, it showed that the issue was not just a question of compensation but also a matter of ethics. "It shows the world that we will not forget the suffering inflicted on individuals and families by the Nazis," Grütters said.

The full interview in English will be first broadcast on Sunday, July 20, 2014 on following DW channels (all broadcast times in UTC):

DW
05:15, 08:15, 10:03, 13:03, 17:03, 20:03

DW (Europe)
01:15, 05:15, 13:03, 17:03

DW (Arabia)
05:15

DW (Amerika)
08:15

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