EU member states need to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty now!

25 June 2015

The European Parliament joins hands with us to end the book famine

Yesterday at the European Parliament, the European Blind Union and the European Disability Forum joined forces with the World Blind Union, the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue and MEPs in hosting a political event on the Marrakesh Treaty for the right to read of blind and partially sighted persons.

Less than 5% of books published in the world are available in alternative formats, accessible to visually impaired and otherwise print disabled people (and less than 1% in developing countries). In June 2013 the EU and Member States signed the international UN/WIPO Treaty, designed to end this “book famine”. The agreement focuses on copyright exceptions to facilitate the creation of accessible and affordable versions of books and other copyrighted works. It sets a norm for countries ratifying the Treaty to have a domestic copyright exception covering these activities, and allowing for the import and export of such material.

Two years after that historic signature, the EU still hasn’t ratified the Marrakesh Treaty: despite the support of the European Parliament, the Commission and the vast majority of Member States, a few large EU Member States oppose ratification and block a compromise at the Council.

This delay in ratification means that today, 250 million blind and partially sighted persons, as well as other persons who are print-disabled, are still denied the same access to books, to information and to published works as other people. This undermines almost every right enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, from education, to information, to political participation. Access to culture and to information is a fundamental Human Right. Article 21 of the CRPD obliges States Parties, such as the EU and almost all EU Members States, to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to it.

EDF urges the EU to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty without further delay. ‘three weeks ago, the European disability movement unanimously adopted a resolution, tabled by EBU, calling on the EU to ratify the Treaty without any further delay. It’s one of EDF’s top priorities’, said Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President. ‘The Marrakesh Treaty is an issue of Human Rights. The delay is caused by a lack of political will and not by legal obstacles. Signing the Treaty but refusing to ratify it is hypocritical. It is time for the EU to bridge the gap between words and deeds to meet its obligations towards persons with disabilities. At the same time as promoting ratification, the Commission must plan a detailed and ambitious implementation plan to ensure that the Marrakesh treaty will become a reality after ratification.’

Reluctant Member States are using unsound arguments around the issue of EU competence as an excuse to oppose ratification. The legal competence of the EU to ratify the treaty has been clearly confirmed by the CJEU and by the legal services of the Commission and Council.

“The EU must not waste all the hard work the international community put into agreeing this historic treaty”, said Wolfgang Angermann, EBU President. “This is a real opportunity to open a new and brighter chapter in the history of blind and partially sighted people's inclusion in society. So EU, ratify now!”

Contact EBU: Gary May | Information and Communication officer | ebuinfocom@euroblind.org

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