Switzerland’s Frontiers: Academic Freedom and the EU Elections

In News by Porter Anderson

A Frontiers Policy Labs symposium stresses that academic freedom must remain high on the European Union agenda after the coming elections.

In the Solidarność Esplanade 1980 and the Agora Simone Veil of the European Parliament complex in Brussels, 2024 election livery for the June 6 through 9 elections. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Tanaonte

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Insights for Policy Makers’
In a year in which many international book publishing markets are facing potentially consequential elections, the upcoming European Union elections (Thursday to Sunday, June 6 to 9) understandably are generating both interest and concern.

Just as an example, a story at Politico Europe from Barbara Moens, Eddy Wax, Sarah Paillou, and Hannah Roberts had caught the attention of some at Lillehammer’s World Expression Forum (WEXFO) this week with its headline, “A Meloni-Le Pen super group? Not so fast.”

And that was followed from another continent, of course, on Thursday by the news of Donald Trump’s 34-count criminal conviction in New York City, with his sentencing set for July 11, shortly before the Republican National Convention in the States, with imprisonment (up to 20 years), fines, probation, and more options on the table.

Our readers are well acquainted with what was described at both Norway’s World Expression Forum, WEXFO, in Norway, and later in the week at Readmagine in the Spanish capital, as what sometimes appears to be coming-closer of international book publishing and political dynamics.

As the  Ljubljana Reading Manifesto‘s Miha Kovač mentioned in a McLuhan-like line, during a program moderated by Publishing Perspectives at Lillehammer, “all technologies are political.” Not unilike McLuhan’s great line about how “all [new] media work us over completely,” the  of Kovač and his colleagues on the manifesto has at its core an effort to focus a population—a very broad one—on change it may well not want to see.

So it may come as little surprise that the Norwegian professor Peter Maassen of the University of Oslo this week proposed in a Frontiers Policy Labs symposium that, “Legal framework conditions at the European level are not sufficient to deal with infringements of academic freedom.”

While those who follow the work of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and aligned world organizations now aggressively monitoring threats to a “trinity” of freedoms—freedom to publish, freedom to read, and freedom of expression—many in the academic-publishing sphere are working to bring forward potentially dangerous contextual changes required for genuine academic freedom.

While Publishing Perspectives is largely focused on the international trade-publishing arena, we of course cover many issues and developments in academic and scholarly publishing. It’s easy for our readers to see that the profound, essential elements of free speech, expression, and publication are common and indispensable to all elements of the business at its broadest, most pervasive reaches.

Maassen: ‘Infringements of Academic Freedom’

Speaking at the Frontiers Policy Labs event, “Powering Academic Freedom: Essential Insights for Policy Makers,” Maassen—who is the lead author of the European Parliament Academic Freedom Monitor 2023 report—was responding to fellow panelist Andrea Petö’s description of how the Central European University “lost” its fight to remain in Budapest in the face of action by Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian government, which introduced a “Russian-type science policy” and “managed to privatize all higher education within two weeks.”

“Legal framework conditions at the European level are not sufficient to deal with infringements of academic freedom.”Peter Maassen

Antoine Petit, chair and CEO of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), warned against confusing academic freedom with freedom of expression, acknowledging that both are pillars of democracy and yet that academic freedom is about knowledge acquired through science and freedom of expression is about opinion. Petit asserted that freedom of expression can be used to undermine academic freedom.

Marcus Scheuren, the European Union’s head of the STOA Secretariat, also pointed to the European Parliament’s consideration of inserting protection of academic freedom into a future treaty revision while recognizing that such a development could be take time to see implemented.

Robert-Jan Smits, the former director-general of DG Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission—and now Eindhoven University of Technology’s president—told the symposium that academic freedom must remain high on the EU agenda after the coming elections, that legal instruments to protect academic freedom are as important as ever, and that there is a need for a permanent online platform to support and facilitate an ongoing dialogue with researchers about academic freedom.

You can learn more about the discussions and debates being supported through the Frontiers Policy Labs in this hyper-political era here, and Publishing Perspectives will be interested in further examinations of issues in policy-related developments relative to the freedoms that undergird the operations of publishing across its various world sectors.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the freedom to publish and freedom of expression is here; more on the International Publishers Association is here; and more on academic and scholarly publishing is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner. 

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.