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A Greek sacrifice

A small news item in the culture (Feuilleton) section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine (April 1st), under the heading “Book sacrifice for Europe”, informs us that the Greek parliament has voted to abolish fixed prices in the book trade. The measure is part of a package of “reforms” designed to liberalise markets demanded by Brussels. The Association of the German Book Trade has, however, written to Greek prime minister Antonio Samaras asking him to retain fixed prices. The French culture ministry has also become involved. The matter is likely to come up again at a summit on the future of culture and Europe to be held at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris this week. The maintenance in France of fixed prices for books (or the containment of discounting within very strict limits, currently 5 per cent), a measure for which the Mitterrand era culture minister Jack Lang can take credit, is widely credited with the relative health of the French book trade and the continuing survival of bookshops in the provinces and smaller urban centres.