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ACTA: The EU Parliament Must Face Its Political Responsibility

Brussels, March 26th 2012 – Today is the beginning of a decisive week for the future of the ACTA procedure in the EU Parliament. Tomorrow, Members of the EU Parliament (MEPs) may decide whether to vote on ACTA in the next few months as originally planned, or to follow the rapporteur David Martin in buying time and defusing the ongoing debate through technocratic manoeuvres. Citizens must call their MEPs now and urge them to face their political responsibility by rejecting ACTA.

As representatives of La Quadrature du Net are currently inside the Parliament, EU citizens can participate in trying to convince MEPs to stick to the original timetable on ACTA, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement.

Whereas the EU Commission has already announced that it will refer ACTA to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) to assess its compatibility with EU Treaties and fundamental rights in order to buy time, the ACTA rapporteur in the EU Parliament, MEP David Martin (S&D, UK) is pushing the same strategy. He has proposed that the “International Trade” committee (INTA) should draft an “interim report”1 before recommending consent or rejection of ACTA, and that the EU Parliament make its own referral of ACTA to the ECJ (which has already been strongly opposed by his own political group).

As La Quadrature explains in a memo (pdf)2 sent to MEPs, both initiatives must be dismissed. Both the interim report and an ECJ referral are useless, and will only serve to delay the final vote, considering ACTA proponents think the agreement would be rejected, were the Parliament to vote on it in the coming months.

“The EU Parliament must face its political responsibility on ACTA. Now is not the time for technocratic manoeuvres aimed at stalling the ongoing democratic debate on ACTA's dangers. The Parliament must exert its prerogatives by moving toward a final vote and protecting the public interest by rejecting ACTA. Dozens of NGOs, legal scholars, independent experts and public bodies have already established that ACTA is illegitimate and will harm fundamental rights as well as the economy, in the EU and worldwide, and no procedural delay will change a thing about this fact. After the impressive protests which took place all across Europe, citizens must again step in the debate and urge for a swift rejection of ACTA.”, said Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson of the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

To call your MEPs free of charge, you can use La Quadrature campaigning tool, the PiPhone, which will also direct you to useful information.

  • Today at 17:00, key MEPs from the INTA committee will meet to discuss ACTA. The Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee will also hold its first exchange of view on ACTA.
  • Tomorrow morning, the whole INTA committee will meet and may decide the future of the ACTA procedure.

Letter to Members of the EU Parliament

ACTA ECJ REFERRAL / INTERIM REPORT: EP MUST FACE ITS POLITICAL RESPONSIBILITY
Dear Member of the EU Parliament,

In the face of the citizen opposition to ACTA, the EU Commission announced that it will seek the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) opinion on ACTA. Rapporteur David Martin (S&D, UK) supports the EC strategy with two proposals: the INTA committee should draft an interim report before recommending consent or rejection of ACTA; the EU Parliament should make its own referral of ACTA to the ECJ.

These two initiatives are useless. They aim at delaying the final vote on ACTA and defusing the political debate going on across the EU. They must be opposed.

The interim report would not bring useful information to the debate

  • According to rule 81(3), the interim report is meant to achieve “a positive outcome of the procedure”, which in this case means the ratification of ACTA. It is also meant to include “recommendations for modification or implementation”. However, ACTA has already been negotiated and signed. It cannot be modified.
  • Rapporteur Martin wants the interim report to question the Commission regarding ACTA's “implementation”. But the Commission's response will be non-binding, politically biased, and therefore close to meaningless. The Commission negotiated ACTA and has already argued that “ACTA does not change EU law” (i.e. does not require implementation measures). Such interpretation is contradicted by a study commissioned by the INTA committee and a legal opinion by leading scholars.

A Parliamentarian referral of ACTA to the ECJ would uselessly delay the consent procedure

  • There is only one question that the EP can ask to the ECJ, as defined by the treaties (see art. 218.11 TFEU): the very same one that the Commission will ask in its own referral. It is narrow in scope, legalistic in nature, and leaves out important political issues. Moreover, the Parliament will have an opportunity to send its written observations to the Court (RoP 107.1 of the ECJ) during the Commission's referral.
  • If the Parliament decided to send its own referral, the consent vote would be postponed (see rule 90(6) of EP RoP). No significant work would be undertaken before the ECJ has answered, effectively freezing the debate.

Both initiatives leave out the crucial political questions raised by ACTA

An interim report and an ECJ referral would center the debate on legal issues. Through these initiatives, the EP would be perceived as escaping its political responsibility.

  • MEPs must recognize that ACTA is a vaguely worded agreement, circumventing democratic procedures to push a repressive trend in the field of copyright, patent and trademark.
  • ACTA would set in stone today's contentious policies (an impact study is still expected on EUCD and IPRED). It would block any possibility for the EU and national lawmakers to propose positive reforms in this field.

We trust that you will be responsive to citizens's concerns by opposing any delay in the procedure of ACTA. Instead, the EU Parliament should stick to the original timetable and proceed with a thorough analysis on ACTA, through the ongoing consent procedure.

Respectfully,

La Quadrature du Net