The leader of the Party of European Socialists, Sergei Stanishev, told EurActiv he was "proud" that his European political family was the first to come up with a clear position on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which he says is against the interests of European citizens.
The Socialists yesterday (9 February) issued a strongly worded declaration, calling the ACTA agreement – recently signed by the Commission and 22 EU states (see background) – "wrong in both content and process".
Stanishev told journalists that the Party of European Socialists has found a new war horse to mark its identity before the European electorate.
The PES leader blasted the secrecy under which the anti-counterfeiting agreement was drafted, saying that gradually, even countries that signed ACTA will realise they should not ratify the agreement. The ratification process takes place both at the national level and in the European Parliament, where a vote is expected in June.
"Many of the governments were not aware of the dangers which are implicit in ACTA. I'm thinking of Poland, I'm thinking of the Czech Republic. There will be more to come," he said [more on the positions of individual countries].
"For me ACTA is dead the way it is. This process should start from the beginning and it should be a transparent process," Stanishev said, adding he fully supported the resignation of the European Parliament’s rapporteur for ACTA.
French MEP Kader Arif (Socialists & Democrats) resigned in protest after the 22 members signed ACTA on 26 January. Arif said he had "never before seen manoeuvres" by officials preparing the treaty.
'Taking it personal'
Asked by EurActiv if he took the battle to stop ACTA from being ratified as a matter of personal commitment, Stanishev said, "Yes, I am taking it personal".
He didn't deny that he was planning to campaign against ACTA with the purpose of making himself better known ahead of the PES congress in Bucharest on 28-29 September, when he will stand for the job of PES leader for a two-and-a-half year term.
Stanishev, 45, a former prime minister under whom Bulgaria became an EU member in 2007, was elected as PES interim leader last November, replacing Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister who left due to illness.
Stanishev said he would do his utmost to communicate the clear PES position on ACTA to the European citizens.
'Pirates' as competitors?
Sources from the Socialist circles told EurActiv that the European centre-left had "learned lessons" from the past and didn't want to let an important political cause to be monopolised by another political force.
In the 1970s, the Green parties came up with ideas which the Socialists could have brought on board as their own.
A decade ago, Die Linke in Germany took over social justice ideas and took part of the Socialists' electorate. This time, PES was taking early steps not to let to the Pirate party grab the limelight in the fight for a free internet, a source said.
The Pirate party is a label adopted in several countries, inspired by the Swedish Piratparti, founded on 1 January 2006 under the leadership of Rickard Falkvinge. Just ahead of the last European elections, thePiratparti was considered the fourth political force in Sweden.
Asked to comment on the Pirate parties, Stanishev said that they had no other agenda except the freedom of internet, not alternatives on how to govern European societies.
"We are not a one-issue political party. We are more complex, because we have a policy of jobs, employment, on financial issues, on social rights, on everything," he said.
No anti-US feelings
Asked by EurActiv if the strong anti-ACTA position would not be perceived as anti-American, as Washington is the main promoter of the agreement, Stanishev said that he had nothing against the US, that opposition to ACTA was a matter of principle.
"When I was elected as PES president I said one of my major priorities will be to work for a democratic Europe. Because democracy is not granted once and forever. And human rights are not granted once and forever. There will always be attempts to limit them, often with the most noble intention, or wording," he said.
"Intellectual property rights should be defended. Creativity should be defended. The United States is a democratic country as well. They should also fight for democracy and civil rights. In every country there are attempts to limit the human rights. But we don't want to live in a society of Big Brothers, right? We don't want to live in 1984, as George Orwell depicted such a society in his powerful novel," he said.
Marielle Gallo, French MEP (EPP) denounced the irresponsible strategy of the French socialist party regarding the ACTA dossier as "double speak".
"The French Socialists reassure the trade union representatives and businesses that ACTA will be approved by Parliament because it doesn’t pose any problems. However, in front of the Internet users, they hold a different position and say that such agreement does not respect the fundamental freedoms. It is time to stop this double talk. "
The Party of European Socialists stands strongly against ACTA. However, Françoise Castex , French MEP (S&D) recently stated that “many questions that we have posed have been answered” and therefore "of course the European Parliament will ratify, will give its consent to ACTA."
ACTA stands for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. First announced in late 2007, 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. ACTA's full text has 52 pages.
The US signed ACTA last October, along with other major economies like Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan. On 26 January, 22 European countries and the European Commission signed as well (the holdouts are Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Estonia and Cyprus).
The Commission supports ACTA and sees benefits for European exporters and for ensuring that there is a level playing field for creators in the EU countries and other creators.
The agreement will enter into force after ratification by six signatory states. None has ratified so far. Ratification by the European Parliament of the Commission's signature are also required.
- Saturday 11 February: Manifestations against ACTA to take place in Brussels and other European capitals