GA 2007

General Assembly 2007

Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators Visby,
29th Feb – 2nd March 2008


29th Feb – 2nd March 2007

Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators Visby,

Klaus-Jürgen Liedtke, Chairman, Baltic Writers’ Council; Piret Viires, Estonian Writers’ Union; Mudite Treimane, Latvian Writers’ Union; Merete Jensen, The Society of Swedish-Speaking Writers in Finland; Nalle Valtiala, The Society of Swedish-Speaking Writers in Finland; Helena Sinervo, Finnish Writers’ Union; Jaana Nikula, Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters; Kornelijus Platelis, Lithuanian Writers’ Union; Jurgita Migutyte, Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators; Ilya Fonyakov, St.Petersburg Writers’ Union; Peter Curman, Swedish Joint Committée for Artistic and Literary Professionals; Lena Pasternak, Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators; Anders Bodegård, Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators; Lars Magnus Lahne, Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators.

1) The Chairman of the Council Klaus-Jürgen Liedtke opened the meeting at 18:05. The participants presented themselves. Peter Curman noted that Russian representatives should have a standing visa in order to participate the Assembly freely.

2) Following some changes in the order of items, the Agenda was approved by the Assembly.

3) Mr. Liedtke was elected Chairman of the Assembly and Ms. Nikula was elected Secretary.

4) The Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators (LLVS) was presented by the Chairperson Jurgita Mikutyte. LLVS was founded in May 2004. One of the main objectives is to promote the quality of literary translations published in Lithuania. Translators have a model contract but the publishers ignore it. LLVS which has 90 members, organizes seminars and workshops as well as courses for the training of novice translators.
LLVS was unanimously welcomed as a member of BWC.

5) Before the Chairman presented his report, a minute’s silence was held to honour BWC’s former Chairman Jarkko Laine who passed away in August 2006.
I the beginning of his report the Chairman presented the balance for 2006 and announced that the dept to the Centre has been paid. Peter Curman pointed out that the Chairman should not serve as a Treasurer since the task is too tough. Lena Pasternak explained about the financing process of the Centre adding that the Society of Swedish-Speaking Writers in Finland allows an annual subsidy of 1000 € to the Centre and also Estonian Writers’ Union has contributed for two bursaries. She wondered if contribution could be developed but the initiative must come from the organizations not from the Centre. Peter Curman added that even though the Centre stands on a Swedish soil it’s not a Swedish but an international Centre and the Baltic countries ought to be anchored tighter to it. Helena Sinervo from Finnish Writers’ Union found contributing problematic since the Union doesn’t contribute other houses either.
The Chairman continued his report by quoting former Board member Mati Sirkel’s letter to the Board in which he wrote that “much of the time and energy has been spent on preparatory work and fundraising which is really tiresome and useless if we cannot activate our members.” During the last year the Board has been working for one mission: to prepare the next Baltic Meeting on Gotland. From mid-May to mid-December the preparatory work – which was mostly carried out by the Chairman and his Berlin secretariat with two employees – was financed with money received from SIDA (103 000 SEK). In February 2007 the Swedish Academy allowed 50 000 SEK to the Baltic Meetings project.
Treasurer of the Board Reimer Eilers stepped back in early September because he was unable to get hold of the financial situation but during the Board meeting in Tallinn (Sept. 10th) it was decided that the Chairman will take over the account and financial matters.
The Chairman went on presenting the Virtual Baltic See Library project and wondered whether it would be a BWC project for the next two and half years. If so, the Chairman would be willing to step back and continue in the Board and as a project leader for the Virtual Library. The Library could be financed by German Literature Fund and/or Riksbank Sweden.
In November 2006 it was settled in the Centre’s Board to arrange the next Baltic Meeting in cooperation with the Nordic Culture Parliament, parallel to them but with a common opening on Wednesday May 16th.
Mr. Curman suggested a press conference to be held April 11th on Gotland. The honoraries of all the performers on the opening day should be paid jointly. Mr.Curman pointed out that because they perform in a conference, a honorary of 2500 SKR is enough. But there are performers who demand more and their honoraries should be split between organizers. Taxes and social security fees must be paid as well. Nalle Valtiala felt strongly that all performers ought to be paid equally.
The first session was ended at 19:58.

6) The session was resumed at 9:40 on Saturday, March 2nd.
Ilya Fonyakov and Merete Jensen who were not present on Friday, had arrived. Peter Curman had left and was thus not present on Saturday and Sunday.
The Chairman presented his Activity plan with the Baltic Meetings in St.Petersburg in June 2009. The meeting would take place in the city and also in the nearby region with cultural interest (e.g. Raivola). A working group with three members Kornelijus Platelis, Helena Sinervo and Ilya Fonyakov was elected for planning and preparatory work. The group might travel to St.Petersburg for further discussion with the city authorities in September-October 2007. The Chairman suggested a Board meeting in St. Petersburg in early autumn. Swedish Institut and Nordisk Kulturfond were named as possible funders but other sources must be explored as well.

7) In the beginning of her report Ms. Pasternak, the Director of BCWT described the structure and administration of the Centre. BCWT was established in 1993 as a result of the writers’ cruise around Baltic Sea. The Centre is financed mainly by the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs and the Gotland Municipality. Over the years the funding has remained mostly the same and the budget can be best described as “anorectic” and a long-term funding solution is needed. Still the Centre cannot and has not slowed down its activities. In 2006 there were 3350 guest nights with about 200 visitors from 29 countries. The focus in on Baltic countries but all nationalities are welcomed. The high point among the activities in 2006 was the annual Poetry Festival, then there were seminars, workshops and readings. BCWT has stand as a model for other writers’ houses e.g. Ventspills House in Latvia.
Ms. Pasternak and the Chairman decided to write and sign jointly an appeal to the CBSS (Council of the Baltic Sea States) to secure creativity and working conditions at the Centre.
Lars Magnus Lahne arrived at 10:15.

8) The country reports followed. Some representatives had written their reports like Mr. Fonyakov who gave an account of the major areas of activity in St.Petersburg’s literary life.
“Just now the St.Petersburg Writers’ Union actively discusses with city administration an opportunity to receive here in St.Petersburg the Baltic Meetings 2009. Before sending an official invitation the city powers would like to know the general conditions, first of all – how many people will come and what expenses (approximately) must carry the city itself. It’s necessary for including this point into the city budget 2009.Of course, the city is ready to receive this autumn (September or October) the working group of BWC, but also would like to know everything about possible expenses. I hope, this problem can be solved at the March Assembly.
The most outstanding event of these days in the St.Petersburg literature itself is a full collection of poetry by Victor Sosnora (1936) – the European known modern poet, a great volume of almost 1000 pages. This book is nominated for the Government Prize of St.Petersburg 2007. Unfortunately author’s health condition prevents him to attend any ceremony as well as to present St.Petersburg literature anywhere.
The other noticeable book is a research ‘The Russian Utopia’ by Boris Yegorov, a scientist and a member of St.Petersburg Writers’ Union. The author observes a great number of Russian utopian ideas and projects from ancient times until today.
The noticeable fact of the literary life in St.Petersburg as well as in whole Russia is an appearance of a number of new literary magazines; most of them seem sometimes ‘non professional’, but some publications are enough interesting, and a number of copies is almost the same with the old traditional monthlies.
With a great pleasure our colleagues discovered in officially published calendars ‘The World Writers’ Day’ (March 3, just a day of BWC General Assembly sitting!) and World Poetry Day (March 21). These two special days were established by UNESCO two or three years ago, and we had even some small readings these days, but now they are mentioned officially, with BIG RED LETTERS! And we try to celebrate them accordingly. In one of the biggest city libraries will be held ‘A day of literary critic’; in a biggest bookstore – the day of science fiction writers; in some famous literary cafe (The Wandering Dog) – the day of modernistic prose, etc. Our poets will concentrate their efforts on March 21, and the main collision of this day will be searching of mutual understanding between the traditional, known poets and a new generation of so called ‘net-poets’.
And at least we are preparing to the IV St.Petersburg Literary festival in the end of May, just after the Baltic Meeting on Gotland.”

9) Kornelijus Platelis reported of the Ministry of Culture established council which was to evaluate, define and give status to artists. The Lithuanian Writers’ Association with a new Board and Chairman has problems finding funding for activities. However, a visible high point of the literary calendar is the festival called Druskininkai Poetic Fall which takes place annually in mid-October in the resort town of Druskininkai, roughly 120 km from Vilnius. In 2006 there were 60 poets from Lithuania and 20 from abroad among participants.

1O) Estonian Writers’ Union’s report was written and presented by Piret Viires.
”The major areas of activity of the Estonian Writers’ Union in the year 2006 were the following:
Legislation and politics
Two years ago, in 2005 the Law of the Creative Unions and Freelancers was implemented in Estonian legislation. Although this law does not guarantee any tax reduction or social security for freelancers, it is possible to give so-called ‘creative scholarships’ to writers. Estonian Writers’ Union has granted the scholarships to support creative work for two years now.
Public lending right is implemented in Estonia since 2004 and a special foundation Authors’ Remuneration Fund was established to carry on the necessary work. The Fund has distributed the remuneration among authors for three years now. This year the Authors’ Remuneration Fund started also to manage the reprography remuneration. The sums from the remunerations come directly from the state budget.
Estonia is going to have parliament elections on the 4th March 2007. In connection to this event creative unions have been in active contact with political parties and discussed the programs for cultural politics of each party. It must be noted that unfortunately culture is a marginal agenda in the programs of our political parties. Estonian creative unions have formed an united front to increase the importance of cultural matters in the political agenda, petitions have been written and articles in the press have been published.
International relations
Estonian Writers’ Union is a project leader of Culture 2000 project ‘Literature and its Borders. Baltic Ring 3’. The project started in October 2006 and will end in September 2007. We have altogether 7 partners – EWU as a project leader, Deutsche Auslandsgesellschaft, Germany; Pekkas-Academy, City of Kotka, Finland, Writers’ Union of Central Finland; University of Jyväskylä, Research Centre for Contemporary Culture, Finland; Jyväskylä Public Library – Regional Library of Central Finland; The Danish Centre for Writers and Translators; Lithuanian Writers’ Union. The main objective of the project is to organise series of seminars in different participating countries under the umbrella-title ’Literature and its Borders’. The aim of the project is to focus on the changing role of literature in contemporary European communication society, interaction between different media and to encompass the possibilities and challenges that literature has to face at the beginning of the 21st century. The project has also the second part – the exchange of writers and translators. The project has been carried on quite well so far, we have held two seminars, one is just forthcoming in March in Tallinn, and the exchange program has started. The project is supported also by Tallinn City Government, Estonian Ministry of Culture and Estonian Cultural Endowment.
Estonian Writers’ Union has joined also another network, called Halma. It’s a network for literary houses of Central and Eastern Europe and EWU is a founding member among other 16 institutions. The central organiser of this network is Literary Colloquium Berlin (LCB) and it is supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation. The network is uniting literary houses from Poland, Hungary, Germany, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Romania etc.
About other international activities.
Estonia is going to be in focus at the Gothenburg Book Fair in September 27-30, 2007. Estonian Writers’ Union is one of the main organisers of this event together with Estonian Ministry of Culture, the Estonian Literature Information Centre, Estonian Publishers Association and The Nordic Council of Minister’s Office in Estonia and the Estonian Institute. A number of Estonian writers and intellectuals will be present, and several seminars on Estonian literature, cultural life and society will be held.
Generally, Estonian poets and writers travel a lot, perform in several festivals and seminars in different countries.
Activities in Estonia
EWU has continued its project ’Estonian Writers in Estonian Libraries’. In 2006 it was carried out for the third time and altogether 20 writers visited Estonian libraries and read their poetry and prose to a large audience. We try to make it an annual tradition. In December 2006 a huge literary forum ‘The Library of Babel’ was held for the second time and was meant for a broad audience. In everyday work we organise literary evenings every Wednesday, so-called ’Literary Wednesdays’ and addition this EWU organised several conferences and seminars in 2006.
EWU has also been very active in promoting literature in media. One big task we are trying to accomplish is to re-establish literary broadcasts in Estonian State Television. Unfortunately they were cut off about 5 years ago and since then there have been no broadcasts dedicated to literature in TV at all. We are fighting to get them back.
Estonian Writers’ Union is going to have elections of a new chairman and new board at the end of March. However, I’m sure that the main courses of action of Estonian Writers’ Union will be the same as before – to secure the position of literature and writers in the society, to promote literature among potential readers, to stand for authors’ rights and to develop international relations between literary institutions of other countries.”

11) Public lending right in Latvia, Ventspills House and the Annual Poetry Days were the main topics of Mudite Treimane’s report.
”Good news regarding public lending right. Last year writers and translators in Latvia had received remuneration for their books lent by libraries for years 2003 and 2004 (213 764, 06 Ls). In April we shall be paid for year 2005 (154 323, 00 Ls) and in December (2007) we’ll get the remuneration for 2006. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for regularity of money in the state budget every year for this purpose.
[The remuneration is administrated by Copyright Association and the money comes from the state budget: a certain percentage of the amount the libraries have spent on purchasing their books. In the future the payment for previous year should be done at the beginning of next year.]
During the last year Latvian Writers’ Union had succeeded not only in raising state financing, but also in raising private and municipal funding for its projects.
The younger generation’s interest in the activities of the Writers’ Union has grown strongly. Young people are very obliging: they offer their services and voluntarily take part in literary activities.
During last year Latvian Writers’ Union had worked on 3 annual projects: The Literary Award, The Poetry Days and cultural programme ’Literary Academy’. The main sponsor of these projects is State Culture Capital Foundation.
The annual Literary Award in 9 nominations.
The Annual Poetry Days took place as usual in September and lasted approx. one week all over Latvia. The Poetry Days had become more and more popular especially among young people (both as the participants and the organizers). Also the audience’s approval for Poetry Days’ activities is increasing with every year. Last year there was great information campaign in electronic mass media as well. The interest of journalists and all media for Poetry Days’ activities and its participants from 8 countries was so great already before these days, that there was no need to organize the annual press conference on the topic. Two weeks before the activities the mass media had contacted Writers’ Union eager to get to know all about the Poetry Days. The folders in Latvian and English and the leaflets in Latvian and Russian and also the internet homepage of Poetry Days was available for public were the information about all activities in Latvia was summarized. Altogether 23 different activities were organized, offering interesting events for all age groups – for children, young people, adults and elderly people. [On average one literary event was attended by 60 to 200 participants.] Regarding variety of activities and the publicity the Poetry Days 2006 were much more successful than the previous ones. This time 30 % of the Poetry Days’ budget was private sponsorship. For the first time in the history of Poetry Days’ the voluntary hands were involved.
The cultural programme ’Literary Academy’ is administrated by Latvian Writers’ Union and financed by State Culture Capital Foundation. In this programme the Writers’ Union’s co-operation with the Faculty of Philology and several museums had been very important, because they had given the premises for lectures and seminars. Within the framework of this programme the following activities had taken place:
1) The individual literary consultations at the premises of Writers’ Union were made available in poetry, prose and drama for all who were keen into writing (three advisers: Aivars Eipurs, Guntis Berelis, Dainis Grīnvalds).
2) The training course in writers’ further education was entitled ‘The theory and practice of literature’. The training programme consisted of 2 parts: the theoretical and the practical one. The theoretical part was made up of 8 lectures. The practical part contained workshops in poetry, prose and drama under the guidance of a professional writer. The courses took place 12 months except summer time. In order to apply for them one had to hand in a written work for one or several workshops in December the previous year.
3) The seminar for writers-beginners has 60 years’ old history (annual project). Every year in February a competition is announced and a professional jury of 5 members evaluates the papers of applicants. Then approximately twenty best young writers’ are invited for 5 days seminar in April.
4) The creative summer seminar for young people was a project for pupils who were interested in writing. Young authors younger than 20 could send in their applications (no time limit). Approximately 20 best of them took part in the creative summer seminar, lasting 6 days.
5) Another annual project was one day seminar in December for literary groups working in different regions of Latvia. They come together and discuss the literary matters.
Ventspils International Writers’ and Translators’ House is now open for everyone’s creative work. The idea of the Ventspils House belongs to writer Nora Ikstena. Thanks to the initiative of the Minister of Culture and her successful cooperation with the Mayor of Ventspils and the director of the Latvian Literature Centre the Ventspils House was opened on June 30 last year. The House is set up in the historical Town Hall, which was built in the 18th century and is situated in the Old Town, the historical centre of the town next to the new Library of Ventspils. The building has been rebuilt and adjusted to the needs of creative work and literary activities. The House holds 7 residential premises (2 of them double rooms), computer room, reading room, kitchen, a parking lot, a small garden, and recreational premises.
In 2006 the Ministry of Culture has allocated means from the state budget for launching and ensuring the activities of the Writers’ and Translators’ House. Further financing will be yearly planned by the Ministry. In 2006 State Culture Capital Foundation had given a grant to the programme ’Creative process in the Ventspils International Writers’ and Translators’ House’.
Thanks to the State Culture Capital Foundation, the Ventspils House offers scholarships (EUR 214. -) up to 4 weeks. [Director Andra Konste, International project Coordinator Ieva Balode. Information on home page ]
A group of experts evaluating applications consist of 5 persons. 47 writers and translators have lived at the House during 2006. 40 persons from Sweden, Turkey, Russia, Greece have applied for scholarships for year 2007. The interest in the House is very great, and there will be many interesting activities at the House this year. The information about the residence’s programme has been published in Finland’s newspaper ‘Kääntäjä Őversättaren’.
Klaus Jűrgen Liedtke has been in Ventspils and discussed the further co-operation. The common project is with Estonian Writers’ Union (Nordic Poetry Festival).
Ventspils House has joined ‘Halma’ (16 centres from 11 countries): the network of literary residential centres in Europa, founded at the end of November 2006.”

12) The Finnish report was given by Helena Sinervo from the Union of Finnish Writers.
“Sanasto (the Words) was founded jointly with Finnish writers’ and translators’ organizations to control the usage of literary works after they are published. The publishers keep on resisting Sanasto and in the new contracts they try to get new licences to use writers’ works even without paying for them. In other words, they’d like to have all the licences with the same rather modest book royalty.
The Finnish Writers’ Union has been negotiating with publishers about the standard contract. WSOY, the biggest publishing house in Finland, has in new negotiations demanded to count royalties from the net price. So far WSOY has counted the royalty from the price you pay when buying the book. AS the result of this the royalties are getting lower.
In the last autumn the public lending right was accepted in parliament, concerning the public libraries. There are only 2 million euros to distribute. In parliament the publishers demanded that the money should be given to them but luckily the directives say that ‘at least author’ should be rewarded.
All Finnish book and magazine publishers as well as other business branches including Nokia keep on lobbying the political parties to move the copyright issues from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Trade and Industry because the copyright branches have more and more economical relevance in society. All the artists’ and writers’ organizations have resisted their suggestion.
The Union of Finnish Writers’ has been working for a long time to get retirement pension for writers who work on grants (which are tax-free in Finland). Last autumn the government suggested that the artists should pay their pension insurances themselves. Artists, writers and researchers resisted furiously and the law-project was taken back. The Union demands a new start and this time the artists ought to be consulted already when planning the law.”

13) The Auditors Merete Jensen and Lars Magnus Lahne gave their report. Mr. Lahne read the report which was jointly signed by him and Ms. Jensen. The Board was granted freedom of responsibility but the Auditors wanted to remark the Board on the Swedish stipulations concerning taxation of honoraries and per diem allowances. They also noted that VAT numbers must be included in all foreign invoices.
The session was ended at 13:12.

14) The session was resumed at 14:40. The country reports continued. Anders Bodegård gave the Swedish report on behalf of the representative(s) from Swedish Writers’ Union. Mr. Bodegård
reported shortly on the The Swedish Authors’ Fund which calculates and disburses remuneration based on lending frequency to individual authors and translators for the loans of library books to the public. Remuneration is paid to originators of literary works and to illustrators of picture books. Authors who write in Swedish, translators who translate into Swedish and originators of literary works permanently living in Sweden are entitled to receive remuneration on the condition that their copyright is still valid according to Swedish copyright law. The amount disbursed depends on the number of times a book is borrowed from a public or school library.
Mr. Bodegård spoke also about Waltic, writers’ and literary translators international congress which will take place in Stockholm in July 2008. One of the aims is to provide a global comparative account of the author’s situation.

15) The German report was given by the Chairman. The German translators still have no model contract. An article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 2 February 2007 by Thomas Steinfeld was presented to the participants. According to Steinfeld the huge decline in literary translations into German over the past year is directly attributable to the desire of literary translators for more money: they see their work only as a financial and bureaucratic reality.

16) The draft of a calender designed by Hanna Sjöberg was shown to the Assembly. Printwork would cost 690 € / 2000 copies. The plan was decided to put into practise.

17) Baltic Meeting on Gotland was discussed.
On Friday’s literary night the artists will get no honoraries. The venue was discussed. Mr. Platelis thought the ruins might be more suitable than ex. the library. Several places for readings could be organized.
Nora Ikstena, Nalle Valtiala, Imre Török, Meta Ottosson, Piret Viires and Argita Daudze were chosen to be moderators in panel discussions.
The list of participants of Baltic Meeting in Gotland was studied. BWC is to pay the travel costs of 12 participants.
The session was ended at 17:00.

18) The session was resumed at 10:10 on Sunday March 4th.
The statutes were distriputed to the participants. Mr. Valtiala wrote a letter to the Governor of St.Petersburg inviting her to participate the Baltic Meeting on Gotland in May. The letter was signed by the Chairman and will be handed to the Governor by Mr. Fonyakov.

19) The election of new BWC and BCWT Board members took place. Mudite Treimane was proposed to bet he Treasurer of BWC. She was elected by 8 votes. The Chairman was re-elected by 7 votes (he cast himself a blank vote). Jurgita Mikutyte was proposed to be a Board member but after some hesitation she refused the candidacy. Helena Sinervo and Piret Viires were elected to the Board of BWC by 8 votes. The election of Vice-Chairman was proceeded by discussion. The Chairman referred to his plan to leave his mandate after a year if Virtual Library project will find funding. The new Vice-Chairman elect should take over the Chairmanship after a year. Piret Viires was proposed and elected but she expressed her unwillingness to take over. Jaana Nikula was elected Secretary.
Two new members were needed to the Board of BCWT. Helena Sinervo (deputy Jaana Nikula) and Mudite Treimane (deputy Piret Viires) were elected.
Merete Jensen and Lars Magnus Lahne were unanimously elected AuditorsMs. Viirews expressed her unwillingness to take over after a year.

20) The tasks of the new Board were discussed. Ms. Viires thought the main task is to activate our members. Further, the homepage must be developed and the newsletter revived. The Chairman pointed out that organizing Baltic Meetings is not enough. BWC could also arrange seminars and workshops, like the Bobrowski workshop which took place at the Centre in 2005. Cooperation with Littera Baltica could be developed

21) Membership fee is 150 €. The invoices will be sent out in January. The fee can be paid in cash at the Assembly.

22) The Chairman called all Board members present to a preliminary Board meeting to be held after the BWC meeting.
23) It was decided that in 2008 the General Assembly will be held on Feb 29th – March 2nd.
The session was ended at 12.00

Jaana Nikula, Secretary
Klaus-Jürgen Liedtke, Chairman

Representing 21 literary organizations, 12 countries and 17 000 members