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Compatibility of the German Government’s ‘Culture Pass’ support scheme with Union law

Question écrite de M. Jens GEIER - Commission européenne

Question de M. Jens GEIER, Mme Petra KAMMEREVERT,

Diffusée le 17 avril 2024

Subject: Compatibility of the German Government’s ‘Culture Pass’ support scheme with Union law

In 2023, the German Government set up a scheme, known as the ‘Culture Pass’, under which all 18- year-olds in Germany receive EUR 200 to spend on cultural activities. The aim of the scheme is twofold: to encourage young people to engage with culture by granting fully subsidised access, while simultaneously boosting demand in the cultural sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recital 72 of the General Block Exemption Regulation prohibits measures by Member States in the culture and heritage conservation sector which support video games.

According to the German Government, the Culture Pass seeks to ‘promote live cultural events and enrich the local cultural scene’, meaning that web-based distance traders, streaming services and digital video games are excluded. However, cultural items not fully aligned with these goals – such as books, records, sheet music and musical instruments – can also be bought using the pass. Board games are important cultural objects, and of societal and social significance since they bring people together.

1. Where does the Commission stand on the equal treatment of analogue board games and digital video games? Does it consider the exclusion of board games from support under the ‘Culture Pass’ on the basis of the General Block Exemption Regulation to be necessary?

2. What does it make of the support for other cultural items, such as books, records, sheet music and musical instruments, which do not directly ‘promote live cultural events and enrich the local cultural scene’, or do so to only a very limited extent?

Submitted:18.4.2024

Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 23 mai 2024

Answer given by Executive Vice-President Vestager on behalf of the European Commission (24 May 2024)

The Commission notes that Recital 72 of the General Block Exemption Regulation (1) explains that the list of eligible cultural purposes and commercial activities should not include activities ‘such as fashion, design or video games’. Thus, the eligible cultural purposes could include board games, which are not assimilable to video games.

In addition, the Commission recalls that Member States enjoy a wide margin of discretion when deciding to grant support to cultural activities, provided that they do so in compliance with applicable state aid rules.

In so far as the German ‘Culture Pass’ complies with the provisions of the General Block Exemption Regulation (in particular Article 53) and/or with the de minimis Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2023/2831), it is for the German authorities to determine the activities they intend to cover with support.

1 ∙ ⸱ Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/1315 of 23 June 2023 amending Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the

internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty and Regulation (EU) 2022/2473 declaring certain categories of aid to undertakings active in the production, processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products compatible with the internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty, OJ L 167, 30.6.2023, p. 1.

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