By Martin Banks - 17th July 2012
We can not continue with voluntary treaties
The EU has been told to back moves for a binding international treaty designed to make it easier for blind and visually-impaired people to access books and other printed works.
The demand was made by the world blind union, the European blind union and the European dyslexia association.
These say that 750,000 new books are published every year, out of which less than 4000 are accessible to blind and visually-impaired people.
MEPs on parliament's petitions committee backed the petitioners and agreed on the need to negotiate a binding international treaty.
In February, parliament adopted a resolution calling for a treaty to allow a targeted exception to copyright rules.
"Blind people should have access to books and other published works in special formats, such as Braille, large print or audio", said the text adopted in plenary.
Blind and visually-impaired people in the EU are said to have only severely restricted access to books and other printed products because 95 per cent of all published works are never converted to accessible formats.
The EU has not taken further steps in this field because several member states have so far blocked any decision involving a binding agreement.
However, Romanian Socialist deputy Victor Bostinaru told the committee meeting that an agreement can be "easily achieved".
He also called on parliament's president Martin Schulz to "pass the message" to other EU institutions so that "we can finally stop this way of dealing with this issue".
Greens MEP Eva Lichtenberger went further, saying that those countries which are blocking a treaty should be "named and shamed".
She added, "We cannot continue with voluntary treaties, it is not working. We need clarity and the council to open up and stop protecting those member states stuck in the past."
The commission will participate in a conference organised by the world intellectual property organisation later this week in Geneva to explain its position
However, negotiations for a binding treaty will not take place until at least 2013.