“When will there be a European authors’ party?”

José Jorge Letria, journalist and President of the Portuguese Society of Authors, recently wrote on the Portuguese newspaper Público, launching the idea of a European Authors Party. Check below why it “has all the conditions to become an intervention and fighting tool for many hundreds of thousands of authors from several countries and different areas of creation which can complement the work of collective management societies.”

In May 2014, the citizens of the 28 European Union countries are going to elect the members of the European Parliament. There is a high expectation about the level of participation because the unfamiliarity and indifference gap between national voters and the institution whose members they are electing has never been truly bridged, probably because said voters have never considered how much the decisions of the Brussels-Strasbourg axis affects the lives of each country’s community and, for that matter, each of our lives.

During a recent meeting with societies of authors from all over Europe, the European Commission officer in charge of Private Copy matters, Kerstin Jorna, stated: “The next European elections will need strong candidates if a new cycle is to begin and, to a large extent, if the European Union’s future itself is to be ensured. But this has to be based on clear ideas.”

Regarding the current mandate of the European Parliament, one can already say that the ideas developed in favor of authors and artists were very unsatisfactory. The best example of this inability or incompetence is what happened with the long-awaited Private Copy Directive. Based on an opinion by former European Commissioner António Vitorino, said directive was postponed indefinitely. This means a significant loss for all the entities that can benefit from Private Copy revenues, from authors and publishers in the media sector to artists and book publishers. This delaying manoeuvre exposes the European Commission’s hesitations when it comes to adopting clear and fair stances on pressing issues.

As would be expected, national governments have used this tactic postponement as a pretext not to go ahead with Private Copy legislation. Portugal is also a sad example of this, which has already led the Association for the Management of Private Copy Royalties to take legal action against the Portuguese Government. Portugal needs MEPs who can stand up for cultural issues in a committed and informed way. However, this has not been the case because they probably see this as a minor problem of little interest to voters.

In the meantime, Pirate Parties are making their voices heard at the European Parliament because those that should have the backbone to defend the rights of the authors, artists and cultural agents in general are silent. It is even possible that the number of MEPs of those parties will increase in the next mandate and that the European Pirate Party will officially establish itself in Luxembourg, using a minimal agenda and program.

Therefore, maybe it is time to take active steps towards the creation of a European Authors Party headquartered in one of the European Union’s central countries. A party that will systematically and methodically defend the rights of those that are crucial for the creation of an heterogeneous and strong European culture and for the practical demonstration that culture has an undeniable capability to create jobs, wealth and tax revenues, as well as to strengthen national identities.

The vigor with which dozens of directors of different European nationalities have recently raised their voices in defense of the cultural exception principle during the negotiations with the United States of America on the audiovisual sector, as well as Pedro Almodóvar’s firm condemnation of the destructive action of his country’s government on Spanish film production, shows that there are voices, ideas and a willingness to fight. Moreover, those who give their voices, names and faces to the defense of these causes have a transnationalvisibility in the media that few politicians get and which is beyond the reach of “pirates”.

At a time when there is a growing number of not always clear or successful movements to create new political organizations, a European Authors Party has all the conditions to become an intervention and fighting tool for many hundreds of thousands of authors from several countries and different areas of creation which can complement the work of collective management societies. The idea has been given, and authors and the structures that represent them may want to discuss this considering that Europe’s future is uncertain and that it is increasingly aged and underestimated by the other major rising powers. Moreover, the fast growth of far right forces makes it urgent to strengthen the fight for freedom of speech and cultural creation before it is too late.

José Jorge Letria
Writer, journalist and President of the Portuguese Society of Authors

Source: Público. December 31, 2013.