E.U. welcomes diversity move

Culture czar gives thumbs up to UNESCO convention

LONDON — European education and culture commissioner Jan Figel welcomed the ratification of UNESCO’s cultural diversity convention Tuesday, saying the European Union was “committed” to the protection and promotion of diversity of cultural expression.

The United Nations Education, Science & Culture Organization adopted the convention after a vote at its Paris HQ in October 2005. Only the U.S. and Israel opposed the treaty, which was voted in 148-2.

It has taken the org more than a year to garner the 30 signatories required to ratify the convention.

On Monday, the European Community and 12 E.U. member states — Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden — deposited their signatures at UNESCO, joining 22 other countries that have already signed.

The convention will come into force in three months.

“These ratifications by the Community and the member states are a clear sign of the E.U.’s commitment to cultural diversity, both within the E.U. and at international level,” said Figel.

“This is particularly rewarding, because the ratification is the last step in the long process of sometimes very tricky negotiations,” he added.

The convention, which defends the right of signatory countries to subsidize national cultural interests such as their film and TV industries, has been fiercely criticized by the U.S., which says it is protectionist and a threat to freedom of expression.

E.U. dignitaries, culture ministers and artists from across Europe celebrated the convention’s ratification at a reception at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels on Tuesday.