Parliament votes bring ACTA closer to final rejection
Three committees in the European Parliament have rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) yesterday (31 May), in what some MEPs described as the last nail in the coffin for the controversial agreement.
The Civil Liberties, Industry and the Legal Affairs committees in the European Parliament all rejected ACTA in separate opinions adopted yesterday (31 May).
The Trade Committee, which has the lead on the dossier, is scheduled to give its opinion on ACTA on 21 June, paving the way for a vote in plenary before the summer recess, where a growing number of MEPs appear ready to kill the agreement.
In its opinion, the Civil Liberties Committee said ACTA failed to respect the EU's fundamental rights while the Industry Committee said it fails to balance intellectual property rights, business freedom, protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or provide information.
The separate motions were passed by 36 votes to one (with 21 abstentions) in the Civil Liberties Committee, by 31 votes to 25 in the Industry Committee and by a slim margin of 12 votes to 10 (with two abstentions) in the Legal Affairs Committee.
The votes marked a polarisation in Parliament on ACTA, with the Socialists and Democrats, the Greens and the Liberals teaming against the agreement against the centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP), which acted as a supporter of the agreement.
Marielle Gallo, a French centre-right MEP (EPP) whose draft opinion endorsing ACTA for the the Legal Affairs Committee was rejected, distanced herself from the vote's outcome. A new opinion reflecting the committee's position will now be drafted by Evelyn Regner MEP (Socialists & Democrats, Austria).
ACTA was proposed in 2007, when the US, the EU, Switzerland and Japan said they would negotiate a new intellectual property enforcement agreement to counter the trade of counterfeit goods across borders.
According to former trade negotiators, EU countries attempted to clinch an agreement under the banner of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), but as members could not agree, like-minded nations formed ACTA.
The 52-page treaty was signed by the US in October, along with Australia, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. On 26 January, 22 European countries and the European Commission signed as well (the remaining being Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Estonia and Cyprus).
The Commission supports ACTA and sees benefits for European exporters and creators, ensuring they profit from a level playing field worldwide.
The agreement will enter into force after ratification by six signatory states. Ratification by the European Parliament of the Commission's signature is also required.
Welcoming the votes, British S&D MEP David Martin, who is the European Parliament's leading rapporteur on ACTA, said he was confident that a large majority of MEPs will endorse his proposal and vote against ACTA in plenary.
Greens/EFA MEP and draftsperson for the industry committee on ACTA Amelia Andersdotter, who is a member of the Swedish Pirate Party, said she hoped that the Parliament will be able “to finish off ACTA before the summer”.
"In addition to concerns about data protection and internet freedom, there are concerns about the potentially far-reaching implications of ACTA on fundamental rights, freedom of establishment and access to vital medicines," Andersdotter said. "At EU-level, ACTA would block the much-needed reform of EU copyright law and instead lead to a heavy-handed and repressive enforcement of copyright with no regard to either the basic rights of citizens or the needs of European digital entrepreneurs."
The liberal ALDE group published a statement stressing their “decisive role” in the votes held yesterday.
“Liberals and Democrats played the decisive role in the establishment of Parliament's position as no majority was possible in one direction or another without the backing from ALDE members. This shows once again that ALDE plays a key role in determining progressive majorities in Parliament,” the ALDE communiqué reads.
- 21 June: Trade Committee vote on ACTA
- Before summer: Parliament plenary to vote on ACTA