November 27, 2020

News Analysis: Brussels Official, Criticizing France, Turns Up Heat on a Tense Relationship

To some degree, the squabbling reflects the current economic and political strains in France. But it also highlights the longstanding tensions between national governments and the European Union bureaucracy, which has taken on an especially powerful role since the Continent’s financial crisis upended politics and economies. That tension is stoking ideological passions on the left and the right across Europe, with potentially critical implications, at a time when popular skepticism about the European experiment is running high.

In this case, the problem began with an interview that Mr. Barroso, a center-right former Portuguese prime minister, gave to The New York Times just before the Group of 8 summit meeting in Northern Ireland. The issue was whether France would block the beginning of talks on a free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union over its “cultural exception” — its effort to promote domestic film, television and audiovisual productions through subsidies and quotas.

Mr. Barroso called the French vow to block the talks ill-judged and French criticism of globalization “reactionary,” harming the goal of cultural diversity rather than protecting it. He said the perceived threat from the United States was overblown by those who “have an anti-global agenda” and added, “It’s part of this anti-globalization agenda that I consider completely reactionary.” He said Europe could not be sealed off. “Some say they belong to the left, but in fact they are culturally extremely reactionary.”

Mr. Barroso, himself a former young Maoist, is unlikely to get a third term as commission president next year, and his criticism of the French left was neither original nor especially harsh.

But his comments about France created an immediate and loud reaction in France, with criticism from Mr. Hollande and his culture minister, Aurélie Filippetti, as well as the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and the leftist minister Arnaud Montebourg. Less than a year before European parliamentary elections, which are expected to reflect deep anti-Brussels sentiment in many nations, Mr. Barroso has become a symbol for the kind of Brussels bashing that is feeding both far-right and far-left political tension in France and elsewhere in Europe.

The Socialist Party was eliminated from a runoff by the National Front in a by-election in southwest France, and after the seat was narrowly won on Sunday night by the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, Mr. Montebourg said: “Mr. Barroso is the fuel of the French National Front, that’s the truth. He is the fuel of Beppe Grillo,” referring to the leader of the populist Five Star Movement in Italy, which won a quarter of the vote of the lower house of Parliament in February’s election.

Mr. Montebourg, who himself ran for the presidency on a platform of “deglobalization” and is the minister for industrial renewal, said: “The European Union is paralyzed. It does not respond to any of the people’s aspirations in the industrial, economic or budgetary fields and in the end it provides a cause to all the anti-European parties.”

Ms. Le Pen, exulting in her far-right party’s strong showing, herself called Mr. Barroso “a catastrophe for our country and our continent” and a symptom of “a European system gone mad.”

In an editorial, Le Monde said, “Mr. Barroso, you are neither loyal nor respectful.” Le Point said Europe did not need friends like Mr. Barroso, while the business newspaper Les Échos complained about “the Europe of invective” doing nothing to advance the debate.

Mr. Barroso said at first through a spokesman that he was not criticizing the French government, but those in France who have those views. Of course, a number of them are indeed in the government, which helps explain the reaction.

Then he waded back into the fray. At a news conference on Monday, he said, “It would be good if some politicians understood that they will not get very far by attacking Europe and trying to turn it into a scapegoat for their problems.” He then added, “Some left-wing nationalists have exactly the same views as the far right.”

In a statement, the European Commission said French politicians should defend Europe “against nationalism, populism and jingoism” instead of “attacking globalization.”

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Hollywood Presses Its Global Agenda

The horror film “Priest,” with Paul Bettany, was not as successful, taking in only $25 million before its American opening weekend May 13.

Yet more and more Hollywood films are opening outside the United States, a reflection of the growing importance of the international market to the world’s major studios. The Motion Picture Association of America says 67 percent of box office revenue comes from outside the United States.

A new film trade event, ScreenSingapore, scheduled for June 5 through June 12, is designed to capitalize on the trend by offering the studios a springboard to Asian filmgoers.

“The idea of opening a film internationally ahead of the U.S. only three-four years ago would have been unthinkable,” said Sanford Panitch, president of Fox International Productions. “I think this is really just the reality of the international marketplace becoming as a whole more important than the U.S. box office for event films.”

Greg Coote, chief executive of production firm Latitude Entertainment and chairman of the board of ScreenSingapore, says the inaugural trade show is pegging itself as a cross between ShoWest, an annual convention for American theater owners to review the latest in theater hardware, like 3-D equipment and popcorn machines; CineEXPO, an annual event in Amsterdam that brings European theater owners and operators together with filmmakers and distributors; and the American Film Market in Santa Monica. “I like to say we’ve learned from the best,” said Mr. Coote, until recently the chief executive of Dune Entertainment, which co- financed “Avatar” with Fox. “There is also a Cannes-style element with red carpet events, such as the world premiere of the new Tom Hanks film ‘Larry Crowne,”’ which will close the festival.

“But this is really a business event, primarily for studios to show theater owners what they have on their slate for the third quarter and beyond,” he continued. “Five of the six major Hollywood studios are coming to present their upcoming films, and we’re flying in 60 of the biggest theater owners and operators in Asia.”

Aubeck Kam, chief executive of the Media Development Authority, which fosters the development of media concerns in Singapore, says the city-state is hoping to play to its strengths as an English-speaking country with strong links to China and India and strong intellectual property protection, as well as importance as a business and finance hub.

“This is a good place for international film companies to think how they might engage and build their businesses to serve Asia,” he said.

Among the Hollywood executives scheduled to attend the event are Jon Landau, the producer of “Avatar,” who will be heading a 3-D conference; Mr. Panitch of Fox; Jim Gianopulos, chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment; and Michael J. Werner, the chairman of Fortissimo Films.

While East Asia is already served by at least two festivals that have marketing components — FilmArt in Hong Kong in March and the Shanghai International Film Festival, which will start June 11 — Mr. Panitch notes that both are mainly focusing on the Chinese market.

“What is unique to ScreenSingapore will be the juxtaposition of it being more of a broader pan-Asia region event,” he said. “Here we may bring one of our Indian films, as well as show some footage from our next Chinese-language film.”

The Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2010-14 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that the filmed entertainment market will grow 5 percent a year, reaching $1.7 trillion by 2014. The fastest-growing region throughout the forecast period is expected to be Latin America, which is seen growing 8.8 percent a year to $77 billion; Asia Pacific is next, growing at 6.4 percent to $475 billion. China alone will see the fastest growth, with a projected 12 percent annual increase. The largest market by value — North America — is also seen as the slowest-growing, at 3.9 percent a year to $558 billion in 2014.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 22, 2011

Because of an editing error, a previous version of this article erroneously stated that Greg Coote is the chairman of the board of the Media Development Authority in Singapore.

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