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UK MPs announce inquiry into EU touring obstacles

The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG) has announced a cross-party inquiry into the barriers facing musicians touring the EU

The inquiry will focus on visas and work permits, carnets and CITES (instrument manufacturing materials), cabotage (transport issues), effect on the UK music industry, effect on emerging artists, and potential solutions.

MPs are keen to hear from those impacted ahead of the first evidence session later this month.

“This is a hugely welcome move by MPs from across the political divide who are as keen as we are to overcome the barriers facing musicians and crew touring the EU,” says UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.

“The extra costs and red tape mean some artists are losing work and some tours, particularly those by emerging musicians, are not viable at the moment.

“We need urgent government action to break down the barriers facing musicians and crew including a transitional support package of financial aid and further steps to encourage exports.”

As part of its investigation, the group is calling for evidence on the impact the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – the UK/EU trade deal signed following the UK’s departure from the EU – has had on UK music workers and companies looking to tour and work short-term in EU member states.

Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away

UK musicians and performers can presently enjoy visa-free short-term touring in 20 of the bloc’s 27 nations, following conversations between Britain and individual European Union countries.

The governments of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden have all confirmed that British artists will not need a visa or work permit when entering those countries to undertake “short-term” tours.

Still absent from the list, however, are major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

The APPG has written to prime minister Boris Johnson to demand “urgent action” over the current deadlock, and is calling for a meeting to discuss ways of overcoming obstacles around visas and transport red tape. 

“Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away,” says APPG chair, Conservative MP David Warburton. “Our cross-party group has written to the prime minister to ask him to take urgent action to clear these visa and travel barriers that threaten the success of the UK music industry, particularly emerging artists.

“We need the government to ramp up negotiations with nations like Spain where costly visas are still in place and to look for swift solutions to both the visa and transport issues facing musicians and crew.”

The APPG has voiced its support for artist-led music industry campaign #LetTheMusicMove, which launched in June and is pushing for a reduction in the costs and red tape which will face UK musicians and businesses when touring mainland Europe.


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Touring now possible in 19/27 EU countries: DCMS

All but eight EU member states have confirmed that British artists will not need visas or work permits when European touring resumes, the UK government announced today (4 August).

Following conversations between Britain and individual European Union countries, UK musicians and performers can enjoy visa-free short-term touring in 19 of the bloc’s 27 nations, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

British authorities said in January they were pursuing a bilateral solution after the UK and EU failed to reach an EU-wide agreement on the deadlock facing touring artists.

According to DCMS, the governments of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden have all confirmed that British artists will not need a visa or work permit when entering those countries to undertake “short-term” tours.

“We are actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring”

A DCMS spokesperson tells IQ the definition of a short-term tour varies from country to country, but is up to a maximum of three months. Full information, they add, will be available on each EU member state’s UK embassy website.

Absent from the list are major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Romania, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria. The department says is “actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring” has made formal approaches to them “to align their arrangements with the UK’s generous rules, which allow touring performers and support staff to come to the UK for up to three months without a visa”.

“We recognise challenges remain around touring, and we are continuing to work closely with the industry,” says DCMS in a statement. “We want to ensure that when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, touring can resume and our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to travel widely, learning their craft, growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world.”

Today’s announcement follows a special parliamentary committee in June which saw lawmakers, industry professionals and stars such as Elton John slam the government over its failure to secure an exemption to post-Brexit freedom-of-movement rules for musicians.

Responding to the announcement from DCMS, a spokesperson for the #LetTheMusicMove campaign criticises the department’s “spin” and says the government must provide the music industry with a country-by-country breakdown of the exact requirements for touring artists.

“Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure”

“We continue to cooperate in good faith with government and officials on the critical issue of EU touring. However, the latest announcement is nothing more than we already knew,” they say. “It remains that the UK’s music industry is in a far less advantageous position now than it was pre-January.

“Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure: Failure to fulfil the promises made by government about securing our industry’s future during negotiations, failure to ‘fix’ the issue, as per the PM’s statement of March this year, and failure to provide certainty around touring in almost a third of EU countries, eight months after the music industry was dealt a no-deal scenario.

“We launched #LetTheMusicMove in June, which saw thousands of artists sign up to highlight the crisis that our industry finds itself in. Yet there has been no political representation in the meetings on the issues for months, let alone any signal that the government is ‘straining every sinew’ to help our £6bn sector.

“If there is a serious intention to fix the problems created by the government’s failure in negotiations, they must start by being honest with our sector and the public about the current status regarding EU touring. As a start, the government must publish full details on a country-by-country basis, outlining the exact requirements for touring performers and crew across all 27 member states.”

 


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Guidelines published for safe reopening in Europe

The European Commission has published new guidelines to enable the safe restart of cultural and creative activities across the EU.

The guidelines, presented yesterday (29 June) by the EC’s vice-president for ‘promoting our European way of life’, Margaritis Schinas, and the commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, Mariya Gabriel, aim to “provide a coordinated approach in line with the specific national, regional and local conditions” in individual member states as the epidemiological situation increases across the European Union, says the EC.

“Culture helped people cope with the impacts of lockdowns and social distancing. It is now our turn to accompany the sectors in their path to reopening,” says Schinas (pictured). “We need coordinated and tailor-made efforts across the EU to allow the culture world to safely and gradually resume its activities and be more prepared for future crises.

“The cultural and creative sectors are strong European assets and are important for Europe’s sustainable recovery, increased resilience of European society and, more generally, our European way of life.”

“We need coordinated and tailor-made efforts across the EU to allow the culture world to safely and gradually resume its activities”

The EU guidelines, developed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in partnership with the EU Health Security Committee, recommend the following:

EU member states, says the commission, are now invited to “take full advantage” of the bloc’s Recovery and Resilience Facility to invest in their national cultural sectors as the pandemic nears its end. Through Creative Europe (€2.5bn) and Horizon Europe (€2bn) nearly €4.5 billion is being made available for “cultural, creative and inclusive projects” from 2021 to 2027.

“The aim of these guidelines is to facilitate coordination of member states’ measures at EU level”

“The cultural and creative industries and sectors have paid a heavy toll since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. At the same time, the crisis highlighted their importance for our society and economy,” comments Gabriel. “With the increased vaccine uptake, gradual lifting of restrictions, including in the field of culture, is taking place. The aim of these guidelines is to facilitate coordination of member states’ measures at EU level.

“Simultaneously, a safe reopening of cultural settings should go hand in hand with a range of actions to ensure the sustainable recovery and resilience of the entire sector.”

Welcoming the guidelines, Pearle* (Performing Arts Employers Associations League Europe) says attention to also be paid to the various successful test events in EU countries, which have proven that reopening at full capacity is possible with measures such as mass testing.

The Brussels-based federation also approves of the commissioners’ “presentation of funding lines”, underlining “that appropriate support packages are needed to revive the sector and recover from more than a year and a half of lost income,” says a Pearle* spokesperson. “The signal of the [European Commission] to put in place dedicated European funds need to be complemented with member state support, also at regional and local level,” they emphasise.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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The New Europeans: Live music’s Brexit exiles

When the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Christmas Eve 2020 that the UK had signed a free trade agreement, the TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement), with the European Union, there was a collective sigh of relief across much of Britain. Four and a half tortuous years after the Brexit vote, the UK was finally out, and people on both sides of the new border could finally get on with their lives.

Well, sort of. That is, of course, unless you work in concert touring, in which case new requirements for visas (for people) and carnets (for goods) – as well as restrictions on cabotage (ie the right to transport goods and people within the EU and/or UK’s borders) for trucking companies – represented a less than ideal outcome for an industry built on decades of free movement across Europe.

In response, many UK-based firms, particularly hauliers affected by the new limits on cabotage in the European Union, are investing considerable sums to open new depots in mainland Europe or the Republic of Ireland.

In contrast to these ‘new Europeans’, many in the touring sector were “sleepwalking towards Brexit day,” according to Robert Hewett, founder and director of Stagetruck. “They were just completely indifferent to it,” he says, “thinking that we’d all just carry on as it was before. I would be saying to people, ‘Look, I don’t think you should assume that. This is how we make a living; it’s our livelihood…’”

However, with all touring still on hold because of the coronavirus, the impact of the TCA’s more restrictive provisions, particularly on cabotage, has yet to be felt fully, Hewett continues. “What happened with the pandemic when it hit is that it masked it [the Brexit question] for at least the next 12 months,” he says.

According to Stuart McPherson, managing director of KB Event, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit – repeatedly rejected as the worst possible outcome by most live music industry associations and professionals – would have been a better option for hauliers than the TCA signed by Johnson’s government and their counterparts in the EU.

“Bizarrely, for us that would have been a better outcome than the one we have,” he explains. “For rock’n’roll touring companies there was an exemption in place, from back in 1996, that allowed entertainment transport to move freely throughout the EU. That protocol was overwritten by the TCA, which came into law with the Brexit agreement and overrode the previous exemption we had under the ECMT [European Conference of Ministers of Transport] protocols. So for us, this is the worst possible outcome.”

A ‘no-deal’ Brexit  would have been a better option for hauliers than the Trade and Cooperation Agreement

When the TCA was reached and the Brexit deal done, what we were left with was something that said we can no longer tour in Europe,” McPherson continues, “and so the only solution for that – as it sits right now and for the foreseeable future – is for us to open up a full European operating centre with a European operator’s licence, which gives us more freedom in terms of cabotage and interstate movements in Europe.”

As a result of that outcome, all the major UK-headquartered concert trucking and transport companies, which also include Stagetruck and Transam/EST (Edwin Shirley Trucking), are now based at least partially in the EU, or are considering a move, with offices in places like the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland serving as all-important hubs for continental operations.

Under the current rules, Transam/EST will have to make a choice: “Either to become Dutch or Irish, or a bit of both, or to stay in the UK – but I can’t see the latter happening,” says senior manager Ollie Kite. “We’re going to have to re-register all our trucks, or a lot of them, into the EU, and that costs money. So we want to be able to be ready to do that, but we’re delaying it as long as possible. Because until work starts to return, we’re a bit strapped for cash…”

McPherson estimates that the cost to KB Event to set up an office in Ireland – including the operations centre with parking for 60 trucks, an EU operator’s licence, and duplicate fleet insurance – is already up to £500,000 (€578,000), with European CPCs (certificates of professional competence) for KB’s drivers set to cost a further £100,000 (€116,000) – a considerable outlay for a sector that has had little revenue since March 2020.

Stagetruck, which already had an office near Veghel in the Netherlands, is similarly facing a bill of between £100,000 and £110,000 to send its drivers to the Irish republic to do an EU-certified driver CPC course, says Hewett.

“All the European countries, at this moment, are standing together and saying, ‘No, unless you come and take a driving test [in an EU member state] you cannot drive a European-registered truck,’” he comments. “That is the nightmare that we’re all facing at the moment.”

Kite says Transam/EST is also looking toward Ireland, to minimise the language barrier for the company’s UK drivers. “The nonsense of it is,” he adds, “is that they already know what they’re going to be taught, as the course and the exams are exactly the same as in England – just that you have to take them in Ireland or somewhere in the EU instead. Nothing’s actually changed.”

Currently, explains Kite, the UK allows EU drivers to drive British-registered trucks on an EU licence, “although they’re hinting that they won’t let that continue” should it not be reciprocated from the other side.

All the major UK-headquartered concert trucking and transport companies are now based at least partially in the EU, or are considering a move

Keep on truckin’
As Craig Stanley of Marshall Arts, who is the chair of the UK’s LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) Touring group, told IQ earlier this year, the cabotage issue – the lack of an exemption for concert hauliers under the TCA – is by far the biggest problem facing hauliers who haven’t already made the jump across the English Channel or Irish Sea. “Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease,” he said. “The biggest impact of the cabotage regulations is that non-EU-based haulage companies will only be allowed to have a load going into the EU and then two further movements before having to turn back to their place of registration. So, as it stands, to undertake EU tours it will be necessary to have EU-registered hauliers.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), the UK trade association for haulage and logistics operators, has called on Boris Johnson to secure an exemption, or ‘easement,’ from the current rules for UK-based entertainment hauliers to enable them to continue touring Europe. “If the UK events haulage industry is to have any chance of survival it needs an EU-wide easement so that trucks moving touring equipment can continue to make multiple stops across Europe,” says RHA chief executive Richard Burnett.

Unfortunately, on the British side at least, there remain fundamental misunderstandings about the role of concert hauliers and their needs in the post-Brexit landscape, says Kite. “We’ve been lobbying for change, we’re talking to the Department for Transport, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but they don’t really understand. They think it’s just going from A to B, dropping off a kit and then picking it up again. We’re struggling with trying to get them to understand that under the TCA we simply can’t tour like we used to.

“We’re inching forward – whereas before, under other rules, cultural tours and events were exempt from the cabotage rule.”

“There is a lack of understanding in government about transport,” agrees Hewett, “even more than the lack of understanding about the music industry. Every headline you ever saw was about fishing, but if you compare what the music industry brings in – what it brings to every local economy when a big band arrives – it’s a massive injection of income into local areas, and they seem to have bypassed it completely. It’s amazing.”

“There is a lack of understanding in government about transport – even more than the lack of understanding about the music industry”

Teething problems
It’s not just hauliers who have been forced to set up costly EU offices to continue trading after Brexit. London-based World Touring Exhibitions, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has been forced to slim down its UK office and set up shop in Rotterdam – a reflection of visa considerations and the other expensive barriers against both UK–EU and inter-EU travel for a non-EU company, founder Corrado Canonici tells IQ.

“It’s a shame, but it is necessary, as we can’t really bring UK people [to Europe] at the touch of a button, like we could before,” he says. “For example, we are about to open an exhibition in Germany – I can’t get my crew there unless I get them all visas, which would have taken an enormous amount of time and money, which makes no sense when you only need them to work five days. What sense does it make to get them a 30-day visa?”

For exhibitions coming into the EU, “we have to do all kinds of paperwork – ATA carnets, rule-of-origin papers – in addition to visas for the crew,” Canonici continues, “so we just thought, ‘How about we continue to be part of [the EU]?’ Europe is 27 countries and the UK is one. So [by opening an EU office] we have 27 countries that we can serve and tour without any problems.”

From a freedom of movement perspective, the political climate in the UK would never have allowed for permit-free travel between the UK and Europe, suggests Andy Corrigan of Viva La Visa. “Anything regarding immigration would have needed a degree of reciprocity: that if we [the UK] were saying we are going to have visa- free travel, the EU would have said, ‘Well, we want it to the UK,’ and the UK – the Home Office and Boris Johnson – would have said, ‘No way.’ Anything regarding Brexit that would have led to increased immigration into the UK, they’d have said no, because of how that would play out in the Daily Mail: ‘That’s not what we voted for…’”

While Corrigan believes the problems surrounding other aspects of post-Brexit touring “are soluble, it’s going to take a bit of time to make everything run smoothly. And anecdotally, things are not terribly well organised at the moment. We had a sound company went out [to the EU] on a carnet last week. I had to get them the emergency car and the two-hour special service, and they got to Folkestone and the guy there refused to stamp it. I don’t know why – he just said he couldn’t do it and moved them on. So they got to France and, because it was Ascension Day, customs was closed. There was nobody there.

“It’s one thing saying you need a carnet to take your goods over. But the actual practicalities of it – the system and the infrastructure – are not all together yet. And I think you will get more random decisions being made by border people asking for the wrong things and discriminating and asking for stuff they shouldn’t, and the same coming into the UK. Hopefully, it will smooth itself out.”

World Touring Exhibitions’ new reality was illustrated recently as the company prepared to put the aforementioned exhibition into Cologne. Canonici recalls: “All of a sudden we found out that if we were using a British company, it would have been a problem. We were told, ‘You can’t do that without a big, big cost.’ So, we used a Dutch company instead and immediately the shipper told us, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ We literally just signed one piece of paper and that was it.”

“When the pressure is coming from the other side of the Channel, that’s when things will change”

‘Make it work’
Despite this exodus of profitable business out of the UK, McPherson is of the opinion that there is little appetite on the British side for renegotiating the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, even on a bilateral basis (between the UK and individual EU member countries). “At the moment, it’s being made very clear that there is going to be no reengagement or renegotiating on the TCA,” he says. “To read into that, the message is: this is what you’ve got, and you’ve got to find a way to make it work.”

While KB Event and companies like it have already spent hundreds of thousands of euros on doing just that, McPherson remains concerned about what he sees as a fundamental lack of haulage capacity for tours in the pipeline – particularly given the number of shows that have been postponed to 2022 and beyond because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“When we get to 2022 and there are not enough trucks in the EU to be able to cover the tours, you’re going to have European promoters saying they cannot deliver their tours as they have no way of moving them because 85% of trucks for touring come out of the UK.”

Hewett emphasises the importance of also keeping the pressure on the government in the UK, warning that the entertainment haulage sector – especially those smaller British outfits that couldn’t afford to become ‘new Europeans’ – is facing wipe-out under current cabotage regulations. “We really need a concerted effort now, with the press, the music industry and everyone to come on board and push this issue because it could decimate this industry,” he says.

For Corrigan, there’s “too much at stake, economically and artistically,” for the UK and EU not to get back around the negotiating table to resolve the outstanding issues facing performers, crew and hauliers. “It’s going to happen. In the past, things have been overcome,” he says. “We used to tour Europe with carnets at every border, which was a nightmare. But today’s major touring is a much more business-like activity than it was 30 years ago, and think how much it would upset the accountants if the lighting truck didn’t make it to a gig because it got stuck at the Belgian border for 12 hours…”

In a scenario like the one mentioned, where promoters cannot deliver shows for which fans have bought tickets (and in many cases held onto them for a year or longer), “that’s when the pressure is going to change,” says McPherson, “from the UK trucking company shouting about the fact we can’t do what we do for a living anymore, to promoters in the EU shouting at their country’s government, saying, ‘You guys need to do something here. We can’t move our tours. Our revenue streams have dried up for us, and for our nation.’

“At that point, when the pressure is coming from the other side of the Channel, that’s when things will change.”

 


Read this feature in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 100:

 


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Music venues turn blue for Europe Day

Music venues across Europe illuminated their facades in EU blue over the weekend in celebration of Europe Day 2021, which took place on Sunday 9 May.

Commemorating the merging of the French and West German coal and steel industries in 1951 – an event seen as marking the beginning of European integration – Europe Day was first celebrated in European Union countries in 1985.  The coordinated action by 15 venues – which included Ancienne Belgique (Brussels), Rockhal (Esch, Luxembourg), Kino Šiška (Ljubljana), Melkweg (Amsterdam), Village Underground (London) and Sala Apolo (Barcelona) – ran across the weekend of 8–9 May.

Kino Šiška, Europe Day 2021

All participating venues are members of the EU-supported Liveurope initiative, which has commemorated Europe Day since 2014. By again marking Europe Day, the venues “reaffirm[ed their] commitment to European collaboration”, according to a statement from Liveurope, which provides financial bonuses to venues which book overseas emerging European acts.

“The severe restrictions on free movement has made us all the more convinced about the importance of European collaborations,” says Tom Bonte, general manager of Ancienne Belgique (2,000-cap.), which coordinated the Europe Day action.

“We wanted to reaffirm our commitment to continue strengthening our ties with our peers”

“With this symbolic gesture, we wanted to reaffirm our commitment to continue strengthening our ties with our peers and boost European music diversity and talent. This is the only way we can achieve a full recovery of the live music sector.”

Each venue recorded a showcase with emerging artists which are being broadcast by public radio stations across the continent, including WRD’s 1 Live in Germany, RTVE’s Radio 3 in Spain, Radio France’s FIP in France, Polskie Radio’s Czwórka in Poland and Radio Beograd in Serbia.

The gesture also aimed to raise awareness of the importance of live music after more than a year of venues being closed, says Liveurope’s general coordinator, Elise Phamgia.

“This period has opened the door for innovative experimentation, but it has also shown the irreplaceable value of live music, and its ability to create connections between people over borders,” she says. “And it’s definitely something we will need more of to recover from the past 15 months of social isolation we have all been facing.”

 


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Safe presents findings of three-year project

After three years of research, Safe, a pan-European project working to improve safety at live events, today (22 March) presented its conclusions.

Initiated and coordinated by French live music association Prodiss, in partnership with Le Laba (FR), Issue (CH), Mind Over Matter Consultancy (UK), TSC Crowd Management (NL), Wallifornia MusicTech (BE), ILMC (UK), BDKV (DE) and the European Arenas Association (NL), the Safe Project aims to improve the safety of live event spaces and develop the skills of safety and security professionals across the continent.

Initiated after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the project, funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ adult education programme, evolved with the Covid-19 crisis to ensure that health, safety and security continued to be seen as priorities during the pandemic.

As part of the project, Safe participants presented results of their research and experiments, including:

Five events were used to disseminate the results of the Safe project. These included an online webinar, broadcast in French on 26 February, and the recent 33rd International Live Music Conference (ILMC), which took place online from 3 to 5 March.

Following the initial broadcast of the webinar, which can be watched back on the Safe YouTube channel, 67% of participants said they plan to use Safe resources and 70% will to share the information presented with their colleagues.

Live events professionals may access the Safe project resources at www.thesafeproject.eu.

 


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A year on, associations urge EU to ‘save culture’

No fewer than 110 music, entertainment and culture industry associations have written to the three presidents of the European Union to ask for financial support for the creative sector, which has been among the hardest hit by the impact of Covid-19.

A year on from the lockdowns of March 2020, the industry bodies – which include Yourope, the European Arenas Association, the Arena Resilience Alliance, De Concert!, Pearle, the European Festivals Association, IFPI, Live DMA and Trans Europe Halles – have called on both the EU and its individual member states to act now to secure the future of “cultural life in Europe”.

Central to the demands of the group, which also include associations representing TV producers, cinemas, fashion designers, book sellers and more, is a commitment by the EU to allocate at least 2% of its Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) – a €672.5 billion designed to kickstart European economies post-coronavirus – to the cultural sector, which they say is second only to aviation in the damage inflicted by the year-long shutdown, with some businesses’ turnover down almost 90%.

Their letter, which can be read here, is addressed to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and president of the European Council, Charles Michel, as well as the heads of state, heads of government and ministers for European affairs, finance and culture of the EU’s 27 member countries.

“We ask the member states to reactivate cultural life in Europe”

In addition to allocating at least 2% towards the cultural sector, the signatories ask that culture be designated a “priority sector” for RRF funds, and that member states involve industry representatives in implementing the RRF funding at a national level.

“We ask the member states to reactivate cultural life in Europe, while keeping existing, and putting in place new, dedicated support schemes far beyond the stabilisation of the situation,” the associations write. “This will help rebuild confidence of both cultural communities and citizens, ensure a smooth resumption of activities and offer hope to the millions of Europeans whose lives have become barren, devoid of cultural and social connection.”

The letter-writing campaign follows an earlier open letter, asking governments to ‘make culture central in the EU recovery’, published in November.

“Reinvigorating the cultural ecosystem not only offers hope to millions of workers who saw their jobs eradicated or endangered by the pandemic, it can offer new meaning and purpose to all Europeans and the European project,” the signatories conclude. “Let us put culture at the heart of Europe’s recovery.”

 


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European Union plots bloc-wide vaccine passport

An EU-wide vaccine passport which could replace the piecemeal approach currently being pursued by individual member states, will be put forward this Wednesday (17 March).

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission has previously said it would be possible to develop an Israeli-style ‘green pass’ within about three months using data from EU citizens who have been vaccinated, tested negative or are immune to Covid-19.

So-called vaccine passports are already being developed, or are under consideration, in a number of European Union countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus.

Ylva Johansson (pictured), the EU’s commissioner for internal affairs, confirmed to Euronews on Friday (12 March) that Europeans who have been inoculated with one of four approved coronavirus vaccines would be eligible for the passports, in a scheme that could pave the way to the resumption of cross-border touring.

Europeans who have been inoculated with one of four approved coronavirus vaccines would be eligible for the passports

The four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs; other vaccines, such as Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm, would be excluded pending EMA authorisation.

Speaking to privacy concerns over the planned ‘passport’, an EU source tells Euronews use of the green pass – available digitally or as a printed certificate – would be limited to the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Israel, green passes, issued to citizens after their second and final Covid-19 jab, are enabling the return of concerts, with up to 1,500 people now allowed at outdoor shows.

 


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EU cabotage rules threaten post-Covid-19 touring

Major touring productions will no longer be able to draw on the expertise of British-based hauliers under the terms of the current Brexit deal, industry experts have warned.

As IQ reported on new year’s eve, the day before the deal came into effect, the days of tours of starting in the UK and continuing on to an effectively unlimited number of dates in continental Europe have come to an end – with ‘cabotage’ rules in the new EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement limiting UK trucks over 3.5 tonnes to just three stops in the EU’s internal market.

“Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease,” confirms promoter Craig Stanley of Marshall Arts, who is the chair of the LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) Touring group. “The biggest impact of the cabotage regulations is that non-EU-based haulage companies will only be allowed to have a load going into the EU and then two further movements before having to turn back to their place of registration. So, as it stands, to undertake EU tours it will be necessary to have EU-registered hauliers.”

“The only way that these concert hauliers can actually continue to provide this service is by setting up European operations,” echoes Richard Burnett, CEO of the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA). “So that means a European business, and a European operation centre that costs a lot of money.

“Unlimited movement by UK-based concert hauliers will cease”

“Bearing in mind we’ve had the worst year, from a concert perspective, because of the Covid impact, so these hauliers haven’t got any money. They’re struggling enormously. And these are the trusted hauliers that have done this for years and years – the guys that have been around for the best part of 20, 30, 40 years. So this is a massive, massive issue.”

Under the principle of reciprocity, even if UK hauliers which can afford to do so do open an EU office, the same rules apply in the other direction – with those newly EU-registered trucks having the same issue should they be needed back in the UK, explains Stanley.

With the UK occupying a central position in the “vast majority” of international tours, restrictive cabotage regulations risk the “erosion of our position” as a leader in live music production, says Andy Lenthall, GM of the Production Services Association (PSA).

“The whole UK position as a leader in production, and place to start EU tours, has been built on freedom of movement,” he explains. “There’s no going back to the old ways – because the ‘new way’ still exists [among the EU’s remaining 27 members] – but we do need some urgency on this, and the route to a solution.”

Complicating the issue is the fact that, because most hauliers are based in the UK, the majority of drivers are British, or at least UK-based. This means, at present, there simply aren’t enough drivers on the continent to service the major concert tours alone, says Stanley.

“The whole UK position as a leader in production, and place to start EU tours, has been built on freedom of movement”

For those who can’t afford to acquire fleet of EU-registered trucks, the only other solution would be for hauliers to return to the UK after having completed their maximum number of drops, says Burnett. “Could you imagine a concert tour packing up and coming back to the UK, and then going back out? It would be ridiculous,” he adds.

In spite of the ongoing uncertainty, both Stanley and Lenthall are confident the issue can be resolved, ideally before touring restarts post-Covid-19, with the former saying the British government has been supportive +and understanding of the issues so far.

“Clarity is the key,” says Stanley. “Where we’ve enjoyed unfettered access to the EU – that will end. But what we do need to do is ensure we get some kind of cultural exemption.”

LIVE (of which the PSA is a member) and the RHA are both lobbying the British government to intervene to protect the industry by ensuring large-scale tours will be able to continue to start in the UK.

Stanley is also calling on promoters and other professionals on the continent to make their elected representatives aware of the problem in order to also push for a solution from the EU side. “The only people who can help us with this are our colleagues in the EU,” Stanley continues. “Their support is what’s needed – we need them to realise it’s a problem, as ultimately it’s going to be down to the ministers of transport in, for example, of Germany or France, to help get this sorted.”

The new cabotage rules, alongside the impact of the reintroduction of ATA Carnets, will be discussed during the panel Trucking Hell! Is it really that bad? at this year’s ILMC Production Meeting on Tuesday 2 March.

 


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UK pursuing bilateral solution to visa deadlock

The British government is negotiating on a bilateral basis with individual EU countries in a bid to break the deadlock over the issue of visas for touring artists, culture minister Diana Barran said today.

Taking questions in the House of Lords on 20 January, the Baroness Barran, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, told peers that while the UK’s previous offer to the EU to reopen negotiations on exempting musicians “still stands”, the government is also seeking “simplification and clarification on a bilateral basis with individual member states.”

Barran’s disclosure that Britain is shifting its attention to individual countries can be seen as a ‘plan B’ for performers in the absence of an EU-wide deal. As legal expert George Peretz explains, UK artists who want to tour the EU (excluding the Republic of Ireland, where the Common Travel Area already allows free travel) currently face “26 different sets of rules” – one for each member state – instead of one, as such an arrangement was not included in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Why that is is different depending on who you ask: European negotiators claim the UK turned down an offer from the EU of a 90-day visa-free period every 180 days, while British officials continue to insist EU inflexibility resulted in no deal for musicians.

UK artists currently face “26 different sets of rules”

In response to a question from the Lord McNally, in which McNally accused “Brexit zealots” of torpedoing any possibility of an agreement on freedom of movement “to protect the purity” of the UK’s hard break, Barran insisted British negotiators “tried very hard to stand up for Britain’s brilliant cultural and creative sectors, and reflect their requests to us about what they needed from the deal”.

The back and forth in the Lords came as industry leaders met with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden, to discuss the other obstacles thrown up by the deal, including cabotage, work permits, ATA carnets for touring orchestras, and VAT and administration charges on physical products shipped from the UK to the EU.

Elsewhere, British stars including Ed Sheeran, Sir Elton John, Sting, Liam Gallagher and the Who’s Brexit-voting Roger Daltrey put their names to a letter in today (20 January)’s Times to warn that the ongoing “negotiating failure” threatens the future of cultural exchange between the UK and the continent.

The letter, which was organised by the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats party, urges the UK government to “do what it said it would do” and negotiate visa-free travel to Europe for British artists and their equipment.

The stars also address the EU, asking that any deal be made reciprocal (for EU visitors to the UK).

“We are determined to give those talented people the clarity they need”

An Excel spreadsheet created by the European Commission at the tail end of 2020 attempts to outline the current situation for British musicians, analysing which EU countries require work permits for artists and which don’t. (However, “[t]he blanks and footnotes suggest that anyone really wanting certainty will need good legal advice from the country concerned,” writes Peretz.)

Wherever blame lies for the current impasse, UK ministers insist they will heed the growing calls to provide clarity for artists and the broader live music industry, with another culture minister – Caroline Dinenage, minister of state for digital and culture – reiterating in the Commons yesterday that the UK’s “door is open” for discussions on resolving the issue.

Echoing her sentiments today, Barran claimed that while UK negotiators “did everything in their power to avoid the current situation”, the government is now is now looking ahead in order to secure a “simple and straightforward” deal for live entertainers.

“We are incredibly disappointed that the EU neither proposed, nor accepted, a tailored deal for musicians,” she said, “and we are determined to give those talented people the clarity they need to survive.”

 


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