Press Release: Europe Day, The Hague, 9th May 2014

On Europe Day, EBLIDA would like to show solidarity with library and archiving organisations that are proposing an International Library Treaty at WIPO


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On 9th May 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman declared (in the now famous ‘Schuman declaration‘) that “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.” 

Libraries in Europe

At the European level, libraries form a strong symbol of the concrete solidarity existing between European countries. Through a network of 65,000 public structures, content is made accessible to  about 100 Million users, i.e. European citizens. For decades, libraries at the European level and beyond have been developing tools to communicate and coordinate across borders and to enable access for all citizens to a broad range of content. 

As EBLIDA President, Klaus-Peter Böttger, declared on 23rd of April, 2014, during the “Right to e- Read day” day (on World Book and Copyright day): “Libraries (and public libraries in particular) have a major public interest mission in developing a strong and vibrant reading culture that forms nations of readers and a Europe of readers”.  Ensuring libraries to fulfil this mission “[…] addresses fundamental questions about democracy, access to information and completion of a true knowledge society”. 

What happens to the EU?

It is not a coincidence that the European Union benefits from a rather consistent network of libraries throughout Europe. It is the fruit of the recognition of the need for public structures to deliver access to information and a highly educated society.  

It is not a coincidence that latest developments on the European continent and the shift towards access to digital content have seen a radicalisation in the position and attempts by market forces to control libraries use and access to content. Physical borders removing the barriers to free movement of citizens, have been replaced by online borders and obstacles, preventing the free flow of information on the internet in recent years. Free access to information in a digital world via libraries is in danger. 

It is not a coincidence that 64 years after the ‘Schuman declaration‘, the European Union seems to have forgotten about solidarity in its policy making especially in International fora and that a few days ago, the EU gave a warning sign of its lack of solidarity towards other countries at WIPO during the discussion on an International Library Treaty.  

What does that mean?

This means that the European Union attempted to block future discussion on copyright laws that aim to help libraries and archives fulfil their missions in the digital environment and as IFLA Deputy Secretary General Stuart Hamilton stated “the EU came to WIPO with one goal in mind: to kill the discussion”.                                                       

What needs to be done

On Europe Day, EBLIDA would like to show solidarity with library and archiving organisations that are proposing an International Library Treaty at WIPO and would like to quote Robert Schuman to remind the European Union that “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it”.  

Contrary to our hopes that the Public Consultation on the Review of Copyright Rules by the EU Commission would open up new spaces for discussion and changes, we now fear real dangers with the EU position at WIPO that will negatively impact the follow-up process. The European Commission needs to take more than a market approach to copyright reform in the European Union, as there is a need to move forward on an International Library Treaty at WIPO. 

In light of the coming European elections, the time has come to sign the petition for the “Right to e- Read”, to ask your MEP to support this petition and to vote for MEPs that are in favour of a progressive agenda for libraries and archives so that libraries and the positive role they plan can be recognised at the European and Global level.  


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