Wednesday 30 January 2013

Collective Management of Music Copyright Directive

While the internet and digital culture has changed the way we consume media, the internal market hasn't quite kept up. The Commission's approach to extending the internal market online is based on the Digital Agenda for Europe (PDF) and the Single Market Act (PDF), which show a greater emphasis on EU legislation to extend the internal market online. When it comes to online music services and the transparency of collecting societies, so far there has only been a non-binding recommendation (PDF) inviting the Member States to promote these goals, but now the Commission has introduced a draft Directive to tackle these issues (PDF).

On the transparency and accountability of collecting societies (that collect royalties and then distribute them to the artists after taking a cut), the directive would codify minimum requirements governing the membership and powers of the members, along with the societies' duties when performing their financial and negotiation roles (such as distributing income due to the artists without undue delay and requiring negotiations to be conducted in good faith) (Title II). The Directive is intended to shift the power balance in favour of the members by setting out reporting duties for the collecting societies - the idea being that a better informed membership will be equipped to demand better services and so improve the position of music artists.

The second pillar of the Directive introduces multi-territorial licences to break down barriers within the internal market (Title III). Currently music rights are granted on a territory-by-territory basis, which naturally gives raise to barriers in the market. The multi-territorial licences (MTLs) won't replace the current system, but they will be an extra option for collecting societies. Interestingly, the Directive provides for artists being able to by-pass their collecting society under certain circumstances (Article 30) if the collecting society does not grant MTLs in music rights. The rightholder will be then be able to grant licences for their own online rights either directly or through another intermediary. Clearly this is meant to free artists to exploit their work across the EU and boost the use of MTLs by ensuring that rights will not be bound up nationally because of the policy and power of collecting societies (or by their inability to process them or otherwise fulfil the MTL requirements).

One of the major concerns for the music industry is that this would promote the homogenisation of music across Europe. While it may intensify homogenisation, there is already a degree of globalisation and Europeanisation of music that it unlikely to diminish by maintaining some market barriers. Having MTLs could also open up more audiences for niche artists as well by making a wider variety of music available to consumers - after all, the internet can prove useful as a tool for band promotion.

Legislatively, the directive is still at the first reading stage in the European Parliament, with Marielle Gallo (EPP) working on as the rapporteur for the Legal Affairs committee. The EESC has delivered its (non-binding) opinion on the draft, which largely welcomes the draft in its current form.

Monday 28 January 2013

A Czech President and a Bulgarian Poll

Milos Zeman, a former social democrat Prime Minister, won the first direct elections to the office of Czech president at the weekend. The presidency in the Czech Republic is mostly ceremonial, though Vaclav Klaus used the position to great effect in his opposition to the Lisbon Treaty during the Czech presidency of the Council. Before this the President was indirectly elected.

Zeman led the polls in the first round of the election at 24.2%, followed by Karel Schwarzenberg's 23.4%. Schwarzenberg was foreign minister during part the Czech presidency of the EU. As the BBC reports:

"Mr Zeman is seen as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking politician, known for his witty put-downs of opponents.


[Schwarzenberg is] A titled prince, 75 years old but wildly popularly amongst young, urban voters, in the early 1990s, he worked as chancellor to the President Vaclav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that brought down Communist rule in 1989."

Both of them beat the eye-catching  university professor Vladimír Franz in the first round.

The final result was 54.8% to Zeman and 45.19% to Schwarzenberg. Both Zeman and Schwarzenberg are more pro-European than Vaclav Klaus.

While the Czech Republic was holding its first direct presidential elections, Bulgaria was running its first referendum since the end of the Communist era. The referendum was on whether to build the country's first nuclear power station (which would cost €10 billion), but the referendum failed to pass due to the very low turnout in the harsh wintry weather. The 20% turnout meant that the referendum didn't reach the 60% threshold to make the poll valid.

The left-wing opposition is celebrating the vote in favour of the nuclear power station as a victory, even if the vote is not binding.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Cameronian Europe is a Europe that is "done to people"

David Cameron's speech on Europe (full text here) didn't reveal much new on his thinking on Europe, but it is an important speech for the stark way in which the political lines are drawn. There may be little that Cameron actually wants or is able to repatriate apart from the Working Time Directive (his speech highlight more areas that powers had been or were being repatriated than areas for future negotiation), but the speech serves as a high-profile espousal of a certain ideology on Europe, along with some of the contradictions and bind-spots it has.

Central to this ideology is a very particular view of the single market. It is the fundamental reason for the EU's existence, and everything else that is defined as non-market is a distraction and a mark of waste. But this stance is also a denial of politics: it refuses the reality that the single market is an expansive concept that covers many areas, and that there can be many types of policy to deal with. Cameron asked:

"...when the competitiveness of the single market is so important, why is there an environment council, a transport council, an education council but not a single market council?"

He's right, there is no single market council. There is, however, an Economic and Financial Affairs Council, a Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, an Agriculture and Fisheries Council, and a Competitiveness (internal market, industry, research and space) Council. You may also notice that there's no single British minister for the market, but there is at least one British minister for each of these Councils (and parliamentary committees as well). This is because there are different policies and politics behind each of these areas - and therefore if you're going to have a single market, you're going to have to accept that there should be a room for these politics to play out.

There's also a Council for Employment and Social Affairs, but to hear Cameron and others speak, this is a corruption of the EU's single market purpose. But to strip away the social aspects of the EU would undermine the political basis of the single market - and the single market is just as much a political project as the Euro. Without common minimum social standards, there would be a race to the bottom as it is recommended to people to deregulate to undercut other Member States, or dissatisfaction would build at how other Member States are undercutting their own social protections. This is not an EU through which people can vote for a more left or right-wing single market through national and European elections, but setting up a mechanism for a Europe that just happens to people, with a bigger disconnect than today.

When it comes to the institutions, Cameron is contradictory. He wants a more fluid Europe of 27 speeds, but decries the complexity of the EU institutions: something that would increase to manage this 27 times 27 Europe of different relationships. He says that people can never be properly democratically represented at he European level, but wants to have fewer Commissioners than Member States, undercutting national representation in one of the major institutions. The other Member States are hardly going to accept an EU that reduces their political representation, and nor would it pass parliamentary votes or referendums in other European countries (Commission representation was a sticking point in the Lisbon referendums in Ireland and will likely be a sore point with small Member States).

The vague nature and the reality of negotiations mean that nothing so radical will happen, but the underlying ideology behind the speech and the direction of negotiations mean that no realistic negotiation will ever satisfy it. Politics cannot be drained from the European Union: even if it was reduced to just the single market, these issues are political and need a political and democratic forum to discuss and decide on these issues. The EU cannot be changed into a simplistic enforcement mechanism for the Tories' own market policies across Europe.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

The Irish Presidency Work Programme

Ireland took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union at the start of the year, and last Wednesday Taoiseach Enda Kenny, leader of the Fine Gael-Labour (EPP-PES) coalition government, outlined the priorities of the presidency to the European Parliament. Sustainability, jobs and growth are the central mantra of the presidency, though the familar buzzwords didn't stop Kenny from attempting rhetorical flight in the Strasbourg chamber, enthusing about the European family.

In his speech to the European Parliament, Kenny outlined a large work programme, from CAP and CFP reform to collective copyright management and data protection. The Data Protection package is one of the biggest legislative changes and a flagship policy of the Commission. There's been worries that the law won't be passed before the parliament ends, causing the draft to lapse and the work to go to waste, so there will have to be a big push from the presidency to make progress here.

Interestingly, while he stressed the need to pass the 2-Pack of legislation (which I’ve written about here) and the importance of the European Semester, Kenny also expressed a willingness to engage with the Parliament on the democratic deficit – let’s see if any constructive measures make it to the statute books.

A major topic was, of course, breaking the link between sovereigns and banking debt, with the banking union and progress on the implementation of the Single Supervisory Mechanism. On trade, Kenny looked forward to the authorisation and opening of negotiations with the US, along with negotiations with Japan, Canada and ASEAN.

Finally, Kenny couldn't help plugging Ireland's big tourism campaign - The Gathering!

You can see a list of the measures behind these priorities here.

Monday 21 January 2013

Victory for the German Opposition in Niedersachsen

The Social Democrats and the Greens won a very tight election in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) last night. Together a Red-Green coalition would have 69 seats in the state parliament to the outgoing, Merkel-aligned government's 68. The election was built up as an early indicator for the federal elections, with the CDU's Prime Ministerial candidate, David McAllister, enjoying a lot of personal support, just like Merkel on the federal level. In the end the CDU lost support, though they're still the biggest party in the Landtag.

The biggest surprise was the results of the liberal FDP party. The FDP were the unpopular junior coalition partner with the CDU in Niedersachsen as well as federally, and there were fears that the party would not have enough votes to cross the 5% threshold needed to get into the state parliament. This crisis mirrors the unpopularity of the FDP federally, and one of Merkel's fears is that her coalition partners may disappear from the Bundestag, leaving the CDU with only the opposition parties as possible coalition partners. In the end the FDP got a boost in Niedersachsen, with 14% of the vote (some CDU voters may have switched to voting FDP to help save them this time around). It's unclear if this unexpected victory will help Philipp Roesler, the FDP's embattled federal leader who has several FDP leaders openly agitating for his removal.

In contrast to the FDP, the Left Party and the Pirate Party failed to get into the state parliament. Meanwhile the Greens doubled their support.

For the Social Democrats' candidate for Chancellor, Peer Steinbrueck, the win will also be a relief. After scandals over being the highest earning MP for extra-parliamentary work, and his poor position in the polls compared to Merkel, the SPD needed a win. Steinbrueck, however, accepted that the federal SPD didn't exactly help the Niedersachsen SPD by giving momentum to their campaign. Steinbrueck faces an uphill struggle himself for popularity. Maybe a lesson to be drawn from Niedersachsen is to promote the party as a whole more so that voters want a Red-Green government, even if they'd prefer Merkel as Chancellor.

With a Red-Green government in Niedersachsen, the opposition have won enough votes in the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament which represents the Laender, to block or stall legislation.

Friday 18 January 2013

BBC Question Time and Europe

David Cameron's speech may have been put off (for understandable reasons), but Europe was the big topic on Question Time on the BBC last night. It's good to see the pro-European side developing some backbone, even if the arguments could have been put better (it's still strange to see that one of Labour's main issues with the EU is the lack of budget cuts, though).

Norway and Switzerland are set to be the most studied countries in Britain if the debate continues, with both sides raising it for their case - either as the proof of life outside of "Europe", or as evidence of the political enfeeblement of losing Union membership. Given that the in-or-out section of the debate started after a discussion on the free movement of Romanians and Bulgarians, it's strange that Farage was not taken up on the fact that they are more integrated in some respects than the UK (being part of the Schengen zone and also having to accept the free movement of people with Iceland and EU Member States), after he'd spent the last 10 minutes speaking against free movement. The Norwegian and Swiss models are more disputed now than they were before, however.

The biggest challenge for pro-Europeans is changing perceptions of the Single Market - that it's not simply trade, but the movement of people, goods and services, and it goes beyond just free trade. Progressives will have to argue why the internal market is political, and why we should value the political institutions - that do need reform - as a way to act on the environment, etc, in a way we wouldn't be able to otherwise. It will also explain why renegotiation is so difficult: because further British opt-outs would essentially be unravelling the core of the internal market and attacks common social protections.

If Farage - and Eurosceptics in general - are happy to hold up Norway and Switzerland as alternatives (that you can have all the benefits without the political institutions and symbols), then pro-Europeans will have to explain why that position is not just dishonest, but why more democratic EU institutions would be valuable and why they are necessary.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Model European Union 2013

The Model European Union Strasbourg is a simulation of EU politics for young people from across Europe, where they can participate as MEPs, Ministers in the Council, lobbyists, journalists and interpreters. The simulation is in April, starting the 20th and lasting a week - and it will be held in the Parliament building in Strasbourg!

The topics for debate will be the Collective Music Copyright Directive and on Croatia's entry into the EU. I highly recommend applying as it's a great way to learn about the way the EU works, and also to have fun meeting people from across the continent.

You can find out more about the conference and apply on the website here.

Monday 14 January 2013

The Speech: Car-Crash Politics

David Cameron's speech on Britain's position in the EU, scheduled for the 22nd January, is eagerly awaited. In it, he will try and chart a course around the hardline Eurosceptics that are gaining in strength and give them - and prospective return voters from UKIP - enough to stick with him through the next election while not endangering the coalition, but not placing the UK's membership in question to the extent that it could hurt investor confidence. Cameron can't please anyone with this speech, and everyone knows it: most people will probably be listening to see how he fails.

Last week there was a string of voices against the slow divorce: from the US, Germany and smaller Member States including Ireland, to business leaders and former Conservative ministers (see Jon's round-up here). What makes the speech such car-crash politics is that it's basically aimless posturing. There's nothing Cameron can promise that the rest of the Member States are prepared to give that would be satisfactory to the hardline Eurosceptics, and there's not really much that you can practically put your finger on for repatriation that would not politically undermine the single market (taking away more social and environmental responsibility from the single market would mark the UK out as a free-rider encouraging a race to the bottom within the EU - something politically unacceptable to even the UK's economically liberal allies).

Even if areas where identified, the emotionally charged announcement of plans without background work being done on negotiations is a ridiculous strategy. It seems that the UK strategy is based on the German fear of a Brexit along with the support of some traditional allies, but as the Charlemagne blog on The Economist says:

"The reality is that, if forced to choose between Germany and Britain, Mr Rutte (and almost all of Britain's northern liberal allies) will take Germany's side—as he did over Mr Cameron's pyrrhic veto of the fiscal compact in December 2011 (see my piece from the time).


 But such tactical gestures [by Germany to accommodate British Euroscepticism] are very different from the notion that Germany, or anybody else, would be willing to create whole new carve-outs for the British from EU rules beyond its existing exemptions (from the euro, the Schengen free-travel area and perhaps parts of justice and police co-operation)."

The inability  to work with the other Member States that do have common economic concerns for repatriation demonstrates he diplomatic ineptness of Cameron's government. It also indicates a failure to consider the reaction of other Member States to the renegotiation - what if Britain's terms were rejected in an Irish/Dutch/French referendum? A belligerent posture doesn't help win treaty change. Pinning it to other EU changes could lead to it being a casualty of a rejection for unrelated reasons as well, so even careful diplomacy could fail to deliver the goods.

The best Cameron can hope for is a short reprieve from Eurosceptic pressure. Without agreement for the opening of negotiations, Cameron would be forced to play a more belligerent hand when Eurozone legislation comes through, placing him in the difficult spot of blocking reforms he has encouraged or called for in some way for unclear goals or to attempt to resist Eurosceptic pressure to obstruct Eurozone reform.

Cameron will need some good airbags...

Tuesday 8 January 2013

"The European Citizen" - Four Today!

The European Citizen has been going for four years today! So, with the New Year just starting, what better time to have a look back at 2012? And what a year it was: fiscal treaties, continuing crisis, rows over the rule of law and national grandstanding - plus a Nobel Prize.

2012 started off with an explosion of blogging activity aimed at the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán and its constitutional changes. Later on in the year, Romania hit the headlines for its power struggle between the President and Prime Minister (though it didn't generate as much online column inches on the Euroblogosphere). The continuing problems around the rule of law in the Member States led to a Justice Scorecard being set up; hopefully 2013 won't be as contentious for the rule of law.

Last year also saw the strangest treaty detour the EU has ever undergone (and techincally hasn't, since the Fiscal Treaty is outside the EU). Not designed to solve the current problems and pretty much law already (and not exactly good for political stability either), I had many complaints about this counter-productive waste of time and political capital, though I reluctantly supported a Yes vote in the Irish referendum. The whole idea of building a grand Eurozone bargain seemed to be hinted at, but the continuing grandstanding and reversals of negotiations have poured a lot of poison into EU summitry and lost opportunities to set the Eurozone on at least the way to the right track.

It was a good year for the European Parliament, with the ACTA treaty shot down following widespread protests in Europe over the treaty. However the acceptance of the EU-US PNR agreement - followed later by the realisation that the US is not holding up its end of the bargain - has meant that it hasn't been all good for MEPs. Legislation for a European PNR regime and plans for a SWIFT system means that the EU is continuing its anti-crime and terrorism policy in an illiberal way. On the economic front the EP is trying to flex some political muscle over the 2-Pack and with some reports and proposals of its own, but it hasn't been able to build a strong public profile on the subject yet.

The Commission had a mixed year - Reding was the stand-out Commissioner, delivering a draft data protection law and pushing for gender equality quotas for boardrooms (though the latter was eventually watered down). Commissioner Dali, on the other hand, was pushed out of the Commission in controversial circumstances under allegations of awareness of dodgy deals.

On the more theoretical side of things, I've debated the European "F-word" and about the left (or UK Labour) and the EU. This has spilled over on to the UK In-or-Out-or-Renegotiate debate, with arguments that the internal market is a political project and that there's a basic social contract to the EU.

We're now 18 months away from the next European elections in 2014. We've had elections in France and the Netherlands this year, and I've covered the PES Congress as well as a Relaunching Europe event on Youth Unemployment, but I'll try to focus more on the party political bent of the Parliament as well as its legislative output in the run up to the first Europe-wide election since the Eurozone crisis really blew up in our faces.

Have a great 2013 and thanks for reading!