Taking on the EU

1 March 2009

This month I have been taking on the European Union. It has been a political learning curve for me. I am beginning to understand how the EU works – and how it doesn’t. My first port of call was to write a personal letter to the Ministers of European Parliament for my area, explaining the recording copyright situation from the artist’s perspective and to urge them to vote fairly on the forthcoming EU legislation. This legislation is crucial to the ongoing viability of the music industry in this digital era. You can read my letter HERE. Apparently we elect MEP’s to represent our interests in Brussels. They all seem to have a different take on their responsibilities to the UK electorate – that’s you and me. I wrote to: Daniel Hannan, Nigel Forage, Emma Nicholson, Peter Skinner, James Elles, Ashley Mote, Richard James Ashworth, Caroline Lucas, and Sharon Bowles. I got an indication from their responses of how they perform in their job. It was a bit of an eye opener.

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Daniel Hannan (Tory) replied in an informed and efficient manner explaining his party’s stance and support. Ditto, James Elles and Nirj Deva (both also Tory.) So Ed Vaizey take a bow, you can tick their boxes and award them a gold star each. Then there was the curious response from UKIP’s Nigel Forage, or rather, his long-suffering assistant. He went to great pains to explain that Nigel was far too busy doing EU work, talking to people and suchlike, to reply to anyone personally. Then explained that although his boss supported copyright extension he would not vote for it in EU Parliament because it was undemocratic. Why was this man given an EU vote when he does not exercise it? I thought this was the core principle of democracy. Ho hum. It seems I have a lot to learn. I was lifted by a warm reply from Caroline Lucas (Green Party) who was completely up on the subject, aware of the issues and already active on British artists’ behalf. Sharon Bowles came top. She got First Prize for Best Response from an MEP to a Member of the UK Electorate. She is on the Legal Affairs Committee and therefore really involved. At last here was someone who was aware of the issue of an artist’s moral right in their recording performances as well as their legal and financial rights. Then there were those whose laptop ‘send’ button was stuck - Emma Nicholson, Peter Skinner, Ashley Mote, and Richard James Ashworth.

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Or perhaps they are so inundated with fan mail that they are finding it difficult to keep up. Nil points. On the 25th March (provisional) the Plenary session of the European Parliament (that's all 785 MEP’s) will vote (or not) on the text of the directive. Meanwhile there are parallel discussions in the Council of Ministers who also have to approve the legislation. Meanwhile on 11th March The Featured Artists Coalition was launched. This is the first group that will represent the artists’ perspective in the future of music. http://www.featuredartistscoalition.com/ Watch this space… On a lighter note, thank you for the sackloads of amazing birthday cards and good wishes. I am far too busy working on my crash course in politics to reply to each of you personally (yeah, I know, sorry about that, it’s democracy apparently)… But I have read them all and am really appreciative of your kind, philosophical, imaginative and funny thoughts on the ageing process.

UNION JACK

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