Commisson caught up in the ACTA
2 March 2012
Labour MEP for Munster Phil Prendergast has said the referral of ACTA to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is a victory for EU citizens. This came further to the recent announcement by Trade Commissioner de Gucht that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will be referred to the Court to assess its compatibility with fundamental EU freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection.
Commissioner de Gucht reiterated this commitment at yesterday's European Parliament hearing on ACTA.
Ms. Prendergast said: "This extraordinary u-turn by the European Commission, who had up until now dismissed legitimate concerns, demonstrates that engaged citizens and civil society groups can have a decisive impact on politics, especially when fundamental freedoms are at stake.
"But a mere legal assessment of compatibility with EU law in terms of freedom of expression, information, data protection and intellectual property rights is far from enough to justify its adoption.
"This treaty lumps together anti-counterfeiting enforcement - which can be a matter of life and death when fake medicines are involved - and copyrights enforcement, including on the internet, which are dealt with by different EU laws. These need updating too and I see no reason to tie our hands with ACTA in advance.
"Also, in economic terms, ACTA is a questionable move for Europe. Its provisions on civil and criminal provisions, damage calculation and liability could lead to an innovation chill due to SME and start-up fears of back-breaking legal costs, not to mention pre-emptive self-censorship.
"The countries where most counterfeit and pirated goods are made were not even invited to the negotiating table and now oppose ACTA.
"Parliament has rejected harmonisation of criminal enforcement of copyright more than once before. A positive assessment of ACTA's legal provisions by the ECJ cannot address the issue of whether the EU wants or needs to legislate in this area. It remains a matter of political choice for parliamentarians.
"I have tabled a number of parliamentary questions to the Commission and the Council agreements, seeking clarifications on precise aspects of ACTA and intend to table more questions on others.
"I will also seek clarification from the Commission on the scope of the referral in order to better understand which matters of EU law will be considered by the Court. I hope the Commission will not use the referral to shirk its obligation to provide us with substantive answers to those questions.
"While I wholeheartedly applaud this belated acknowledgement by the Commission that we need legal certainty before a European Parliament vote on ACTA, there are political matters that should be decided by elected parliaments and not merely put to them for a yea or nay vote, as a done deal behind closed doors."
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is subject to consent by the European Parliament. The vote was initially foreseen for May but may be postponed due to broad opposition by MEPs concerned with the content of the treaty and the very narrow timeframe to fully appreciate its implications.
It is bound to be further postponed until the European Court of Justice receives and rules on the referral by the Commission.
The statement from the European Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, announcing the decision to refer ACTA to the ECJ can be accessed on: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/12/128
The parliamentary questions tabled so far by Phil Prendergast MEP can be accessed on http://acta.ffii.org/?p=1147