Stopping ACTA: INTA Committee

So, we arrive at the penultimate stage of the battle to stop ACTA in Europe. Before the final plenary vote in the European Parliament in July, there is a vote in the International Trade committee (INTA) this Thursday. As its home page...

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So, we arrive at the penultimate stage of the battle to stop ACTA in Europe. Before the final plenary vote in the European Parliament in July, there is a vote in the International Trade committee (INTA) this Thursday. As its home page explains:

INTA is scheduled to vote on the draft recommendation to plenary on the consent procedure on ACTA during its meeting of 20-21 June. The committee will also vote on three amendments tabled. While the draft report recommends declining the consent, the amendments seek to grant consent or delay the final vote until the ruling of the Court of Justice.

The detailed amendments can be read on La Quadrature du Net's site. Here's the justification for one of them that asks for ACTA to be accepted:

Europe needs an international agreement to step up the fight against counterfeit products. The ACTA agreement provides a useful basis to this fight against counterfeit products and ensures an adequate protection of consumers and companies alike. On the other hand there is a need for legal clarity regarding certain provisions in the agreement in respect of its digital chapter. It is important that ACTA is not open to any interpretation that would infringe EU law. We need to ensure legal clarity when it comes to internet service providers' responsibility under ACTA and to add legal clarity as to when Member states could impose criminal enforcement measures on internet users. Therefore we call on the European Commission and Member States to ensure that ACTA does not open up for any interpretation that would infringe EU law. Such guarantees have to be given before the European Parliament can give its consent to the Agreement.

So, running through these: no, ACTA does not provide a useful basis, since it does not change EU law (as we a continually told by ACTA supporters). Moreover, the main supplier of counterfeits – China – is not a signatory, and so will be unaffected, as I've noted before. So ACTA will do almost nothing in the "fight against counterfeit products". In short, there is only minimal benefit for the EU to sign up to ACTA.

By contrast, the downsides are very real, as even the "justification" above recognises. However, its proposed remedies fail to solve the problem at all. Simply "calling" upon "the European Commission and Member States to ensure that ACTA does not open up for any interpretation that would infringe EU law" is the height of naivety and irresponsibility.

We are talking about a treaty that will constrain how the EU and national governments will be able to legislate; that is, it is a brake on the democratic institutions of Europe at a local and continental level. And yet the proposer of the amendment wants us to go ahead on the basis of ill-defined and legally useless "guarantees".

No business negotiating a major deal would accept vague "guarantees" that a badly-drafted contract would not be abused; instead, it would – rightly – insist on that contract being re-drafted until it embodies those guarantees in a legally-binding manner. To suggest that a treaty that will affect 500 million Europeans should be negotiated and accepted on a less rigorous basis is an insult to the public and a gross dereliction of political responsibilities.

The other amendment is simply:

Decides to suspend the vote on consent to the draft Council decision; the decision on whether to consent to or reject the agreement will be reviewed once the European Parliament is in a position to take into account the opinion of the European Court of Justice on the compatibility of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with the Treaties;

This position doesn't make any sense. If ACTA is not compatible with the Treaties, it should be rejected by the European Parliament now; even if it isn't rejected, any ratification will be annulled as soon as the ECJ pronounced it incompatible. If ACTA is compatible with the Treaties, that doesn't mean that it is acceptable. That is for the European Parliament to decide on the basis of what the European electorate thinks, among other things.

So in either case – whether ACTA is or isn't compatible with the treaties – a vote now makes sense. Delaying it, on the other hand, does not, since it achieves nothing other than thwarting the public's wishes – and those of the four European Parliament committees that have already rejected ACTA - by delaying decision-making to some unspecified future when people may have moved on to other concerns.

La Quadrature du Net has put together a full list of the MEPs on the INTA committee. Those from the UK are as follows:

Emma McClarkin – [email protected]

Catherine Bearder – [email protected]

David Campbell Bannerman – [email protected]

William (The Earl of) Dartmouth – [email protected]

Syed Kamall – [email protected]

David Martin – [email protected]

Robert Sturdy – [email protected]

It's worth noting that David Martin is the rapporteur for ACTA, and has already come out against the treaty. I don't know what the others think, so contacting them would be a good idea. The best thing would be to ring them – the lists on La Quadrature du Net have all the numbers. In addition, it would be good to send them an email. Moreover, it would be helpful to send an email to all your MEPs (use WriteToThem to find out who they are) asking them to pass on your views to the committee: the more we contact MEPs expressing our views, the more the message will be conveyed to INTA that acceptance or delay is not an option.

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