ENDitorial: ACTA is not dead
This article is also available in:
Deutsch: ENDitorial: ACTA ist noch nicht am Ende
Next week, the European Parliament's Development Committee (DEVE), the first of the five Committees responsible for providing opinions on the proposed ACTA agreement will vote on its draft recommendation.
As of today, it appears more likely than not that the Development Committee will vote in favour of ACTA. The Parliamentarian leading on the dossier is Czech Eurosceptic Jan Zahradil. While there is an obvious attraction for a Eurosceptic to support (ironically following the European Commission's line very diligently) an EU proposal which is deeply unpopular and flawed, a “yes” vote would come as a big shock to many observers and risks creating political momentum that could potentially breathe new life into the allegedly “dead” proposal. Of course, a “yes” vote can only happen if the Parliamentarians, whose job is to support policies that defend development, ignore the opinions of organisations like Médecins sans Frontières, ignore the analysis of the dangers for development described by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and, last but not least, ignore the political direction agreed in several of the political groups. To contact Parliamentarians on the DEVE Committee to ask them not to vote in favour of Mr Zahradil's position, please see the links below.
The dangers of splits in the political groups that have already declared their opposition to ACTA are best illustrated by the amendments tabled to the draft Opinion in the Industry Committee (ITRE). There, in line with the majority of interventions in the Committee discussions, the Parliamentarian in charge of the dossier, Amelia Andersdotter (Sweden, Greens/EFA) proposed rejection. However, the Danish Liberal Jens Rohde (who sat alongside his group leader at the press conference where the Liberal group's against ACTA was announced) has co-signed an amendment with the conservative EPP group, in order to delete the recommendation to reject ACTA. In response to a blog article criticising him for this, Mr Rhode said that, when preparing an Opinion for another Committee on a proposal, it was not the role of the Committee to make a recommendation. He did not explain what the purpose of an Opinion is, if it is not to express an opinion.
The third Committee working on this dossier is the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), where Marielle Gallo (EPP, France) is responsible. Unsurprisingly, as Ms Gallo is a staunch defender of repressive measures to support IPR enforcement, her draft report is in favour of ACTA. Her solution to ACTA's problems is to require the European Commission to produce annual reports on ACTA's implementation and, where breaches of fundamental rights are identified, to “immediately” persuade the European Court of Justice to bring them to an end. And this would be a good strategy if the European Commission did not have a long history of failing to respect its reporting obligations (its data retention report was seven months late), if the Commission had not proposed “voluntary” breaches of European law itself, if the mechanism for the European Court to immediately end infringements identified by the Commission actually existed, if ACTA was a purely internal instrument and if one of the biggest risks to fundamental rights was not from foreign companies regulating EU freedom of communication.
The Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) published the draft Opinion from the MEP responsible Dimitrios Droutsas (Greece, S&D). The Opinion raises a whole range of dangers for fundamental rights created by ACTA, strongly implying that ACTA is illegal under EU law. However, Mr Droutsas appears to prefer to include that conclusion only after the dossier has been fully debated in the Committee. The Committee will have a public hearing next Wednesday morning (16 May) with invited experts from civil society (including EDRi and La Quadrature), the European Commission, the EDPS and others.
The fifth Committee, the International Trade Committee (INTA), will be responsible for the final Committee vote, before the dossier is sent to the Plenary sitting of the European Parliament in July. While the draft final report by the MEP in charge, David Martin has been published, this Committee's work on the dossier is at an earlier stage than the others, as they are supposed to take the other Committee's opinions into account before finalising their position. Mr Martin's draft recommendation states that the costs of ACTA outweigh the potential benefits and it should, therefore, be rejected.
EDRi's Stop ACTA page
Médicins sans Frontières
German Ministry position
Danish blog article on Rohde's amendment
Zahradil draft opinion
Andersdotter draft opinion
Gallo draft opinion
Martin draft recommendation
Infographic on the Parliament's procedures for ACTA
Detailed information on the EU's decision-making processes
Members of each Committee:
(contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)