ROME — Turkey is exiting the European Union’s Creative Europe program which supports the arts, including film and TV — a surprise move that comes as relations between the Turkish government and the E.U. become increasingly strained.
In 2015, Turkey joined the ranks of non-E.U. member countries allowed to tap into Creative Europe’s 1.46-billion-euro fund ($1.56 billion) to support culture and the arts between 2014 and 2020. Creative Europe incorporates the E.U.’s Media Program, which subsidizes production, promotion, and distribution of film, TV, and video content.
“The European Commission regrets Turkey’s decision and the fact that Turkish cultural and audiovisual operators will miss future opportunities for cooperation with their counterparts in the E.U.,” an E.U. spokeswoman. “Although this is unfortunate, the commission respects the sovereign decision of Turkey.”
The withdrawal, now under negotiation between the E.U. and the Turkish government, is to be effective from Jan. 1, 2017.
According to Turkish daily Haberturk, the pullout is in response to a concert, supported by Creative Europe and performed in April by Germany’s Dresdner Sinfoniker orchestra, in commemoration of the Armenian genocide.
Turkey rejects use of the word “genocide” to describe the killings of more than a million Armenians and other Christian minorities by Ottoman Turks during the 1910s. The issue continues to be a sensitive one for modern Turkey: In June, the German parliament’s symbolic resolution declaring the killings a genocide sparked an angry reaction from the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
More recently, in the wake of the July 15 failed coup in Turkey, tensions between the E.U. and Ankara have worsened, partly because E.U. officials have criticized Erdogan’s heavy crackdown against the coup’s alleged plotters and sympathizers.
To date, an estimated 2.4 million euros ($2.6 million) has been allocated by Creative Europe to support Turkish films and cultural projects, including the Istanbul Film Festival’s Meetings on the Bridge co-production forum. It is unclear whether Turkey’s pullout from Creative Europe will also affect the country’s membership in European co-productions fund Eurimages, which is overseen by the Council of Europe, not by the European Union.
“As one of the beneficiaries of the fund, we are deeply saddened by the withdrawal of Turkey from Creative Europe,” commented Meetings on the Bridge director Gulin Ustun in an email.
“In addition to providing a much needed financial support to Meetings on the Bridge, Creative Europe is a productive network and a crucial platform for active exchange of expertise for the artists and organisations working in Turkey and Europe,” she added.
The withdrawal is a blow to the Turkish film industry since producers, distributors and fest and film market organizers will not be able to tap into the Media Program’s soft money. It also symbolically weakens their ties with Europe’s creative community.
“It is a very unfortunate decision,” said Basak Emre, co-director of Festival on Wheels, which promotes Turkish films. “Many artists and cultural institutions will be affected. But we do not know the details of this decision yet,” she noted.