ACTA – one step closer to the final rejection

The way ACTA (trade agreement on anti-counterfeiting) was negotiated and debated could be a topic of several suspenseful publications. Even a “hit list” movie!
Having served as a Member of Parliament for over 8 years, never have I encountered so many peculiar events relating to a single document.

For example, a debate on four petitions related to ACTA in the Committee on Petitions, originally scheduled on 8th May 2012, was all of a sudden postponed by six weeks. This happened without any justification and despite earlier arrangements agreed by all political groups.

Let me also add that ACTA petitions were “sitting in a drawer” for over half a year before emerging as a topic for discussion.

The first petition was received from Latvia already in 2011 (No. 1221/2011- made by G.K.), then there were two other petitions from Poland (No. 116/2012 submitted by Iwo Domeracki and No 142/2012 – by Mateusz Wojtowicz on behalf of the association “Rdzawka Forum” along with two co-signers), a third petition came from Germany (No. 203/2012, which by Joachim Scholz), lastly a petition from the United Kingdom with 2.5 million signatures (No. 223/2012, which was submitted by Alex Wilks on behalf of Avaaz).

Finally, the debate was held on 19th June 2012 in the presence of Alex Wilks, who acted as a representative of all petitioners. Mr. Wilks presented to members of the Committee commonly known arguments calling for rejection of the agreement. The European Commission, on the other hand, presented a positive position on ACTA, claiming that the treaty does not threaten theUnion and its citizens, and arguing that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on this matter will shade further light on certain difficulties.

A few Members present in the debate, (myself included), mostly opponents of the agreement – agreed that if the respective committees where ACTA was discussed decided to vote against the agreement – there could only be one final decision, thus we should not wait for the ECJ ruling.

Meanwhile, the opinions on this matter in the Parliament are varied and full unanimity does not even exist in the respective political groups. Although my group S&D stands “against” ACTA, some of our members, working in advisory committees actually voted “for” ACTA.

Today, 21st June, the final vote on ACTA took place in the main Committee responsible for International Trade. The report, prepared by Mr David Martin, also included the opinions of other respective Committees. ACTA was rejected in the final vote (19 votes against ACTA, 12 votes in favour of ACTA), and so was a separate amendment calling to postpone the vote until the ruling of ECJ becomes available. (Same voting result: 19 votes against the amendment, 12 votes in favour of it).

With the completion of the discussions and votes in relevant, ACTA will be put forward to the plenary on 3rd July (though the date is still to be confirmed).

I hope this episode will mark the final burial of the agreement

With greetings from the European Parliament!

Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg

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PS – Despite the fact that earlier negotiations were conducted in confidentiality so the Parliament could formulate its resolution only on the basis of leaks, please find below more “bizarre” facts relating to ACTA:

  • 22 February. European Commission (EC), which negotiated on behalf of the EU ACTA – under pressure from MEPs and mass protests in the streets of European cities – has announced that it was ready to send ACTA to the ECJ to check the compliance of the provisions of the Agreement with community law.
  • April 4. The EP decided not to refer a separate question on ACTA to the ECJ – on the same day the European Commission confirmed sending its question, making its content public. Let me add that the preparation of the question took almost two months  … “Is Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is compatible with the Treaties, in particular the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU?
  • 11 May. appeared in another EC official statement: “We can confirm that the European Commission has just sent the official request for an opinion on ACTA”

Judging by the time it takes to actually post a question, for me – ACTA opponent, it was clear that the European Commission hopes to block the parliamentary procedure for at least 9 months (time needed under the “urgent procedure” for a preliminary ruling by the ECJ) or for almost two years (standard procedure applied for standard rullings by ECJ).

  • When the rapporteur for ACTA, David Martin, my fellow colleague from the S&D Group declared last April that he would recommend rejection of the treaty – the planned vote on his report was immediately postponed by one month, along with the respective opinion prepared by the Legal Affairs Committee and other committees who were requested to deliver an opinion on this topic.
  • The European Commission and lobbyists have been trying until now to prove how wrong our concerns were, which they hoped would vanish with the ECJ ruling. They insist on waiting for the verdict of the ECJ.

Again, they gain time…

Meanwhile, for the Court the very provisions of the treaty may seem incompatible with Community legislation, as it won’t be focusing itself on their possible implementation, which raises the most concerns.

In practice, the consequences of these provisions in every country – signatory of the treaty – may be different.
A law leaving too much scope for individual interpretation, dependent on the creativity of the national lawyers, is definitely not a good law.

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