Greek Presidency 2003: European Conference “What future for European Books? Books and the book market in the enlarged European Union” (April 2003)


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Athens, 10 & 11 April 2003


The participants of the Conference, namely more than 150 key actors in the European book industry (authors, translators, publishers, booksellers, librarians) and representatives of ministries and institutions involved in the book sector, addressed the main book policy issues presently pending in the enlarged European Union.

The following principles were agreed upon and are hereby communicated to the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Cultural Affairs Committee:

- The role of culture in the European Union as defined in Article 151 paragraph 4 of the Treaty, namely “the obligation of the Community to take cultural aspects into account in its actions under the provisions of the Treaty, in particular in order to respect and to promote the diversity of cultures” should be actively applied within the policies adopted by the European Union and strengthened within the discussions on the institutional and political future of the Union carried out by the European Convention.
In this context, the cultural and creative industries and, in particular, the book industry, must find adequate treatment and a place within other European policies, such as education, employment and creation of new employment opportunities, the information society and new technologies programmes, competition rules, e.t.c.

-The European Union must have a more ambitious policy for books and reading and should not restrict itself to the modestly funded Culture 2000 programme. It is essential to recognize both the cultural and economic significance of the book sector, which represents on the publishing side an estimated 20 billion Euro turnover in 2001 (i.e. higher than that of the audiovisual and the music sector), more than 25.000 booksellers in the E.U., as well as more than 54.000 writers and translators represented in the European Writers Congress organizations.

-The European institutions should welcome and enhance the production of reliable and comparable statistics in the fields of book publishing-including translation-, bookselling, jobs & employment, public spending on books, literacy, reading skills, reading practices and library lending statistics. Production of statistics is vital in order to show the importance of books in the European Society and to be able to support specific measures to be taken by the European institutions. Harmonization of the research activities can be ensured through the enhancement of the important work carried out by Eurostat.

-Specific action lines for “books and reading” have been drafted in the Culture 2000 programme budget in 2003 and should be retained. The programme should finance useful and valuable initiatives in favour of the promotion of reading and books, involving actors from the whole book community, including creators i.e. writers, literary translators and illustrators, publishers, booksellers and librarians. Actions concerning the cultural industries should be included in pilot projects. The above projects should also support the promotion of European books in the International Rights markets, through the participation in Book Fairs outside the EU.

-Translation plays a key role in the promotion and free circulation of ideas and literature within the enlarged European Union and should be continuously supported through both European and national appropriate programmes.

-Amongst the highest priorities for the European book sector is the promotion of reading. It is vital to finance relevant initiatives, mainly reading campaigns and programmes on reading skills. A specific European action plan of substantial investment in literacy would give the best long term return to the European Economy.

-Authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians and other stakeholders should be consulted in the drafting of the e- content and other information society programmes, as these programmes offer opportunities to produce and disseminate cultural content and they affect indeed the future of the book sector.

- It is essential, especially for the new EU member states, to find financing for education and training skills in writing, translating, editing, design, production and marketing of books and published texts in printed and digital form through the European educational and training programmes.

- An accurate and up to date definition of the “book”, which will take into consideration that the crucial element to be protected is the content and not the form, needs to be worked out as such a definition would be vital for political decisions, like VAT rates, fixed book prices, intellectual property protection.

-The dual nature of books as both cultural and economic goods, must be taken into account, when commercial and economic regulations are at stake. It is important to recognize and leave untouched national and european measures in favour of the promotion of books. In this context, books, in whatever form, should be taxed at the lowest possible VAT rate. National provisions on systems of fixed book prices, where they exist on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity, should be respected and not circumvented by other European regulations.