Graduated response: Europe must resist Sarkozy’s authoritarianism

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A letter from Nicolas Sarkozy to the president of European Commission, Jose-Manuel Barroso, has been published today on the website[1] Sarkozy begs Barroso to reject Bono/Cohn-Bendit/Roithova amendment (amendment 138) adopted by 88% of the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) during the first reading of the Telecoms package.[2]

Thus, Nicolas Sarkozy confirms that this amendment spells death for the French draft law proposing a “three-strikes approach” (also called “graduated response”), definitely making a fool of Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, who was attempting for two weeks to make people believe the opposite. Moreover, the French president, feeling cornered, revives one of his obsessions: authoritarianism.

The Issue for Nicolas Sarkozy

Inside European Union, no administrative authority can impose to an Internet service provider to cut off a subscriber’s access on the grounds that it could be used to share unauthorized music or movies. Such a decision, for such grounds, can only be taken by judiciary authority, in its natural role of guardian of freedoms.

As restated by amendment 138, only threats to public security (child pornography, terrorism, incitement to murder…) can justify a restriction of the Internet users’ freedom to communicate without a prior decision from judicial authority.

MEPs have just recalled this legal principle, which is disregarded by the French draft bill. Therefore, as underlined by Catherine Trautmann – former Minister of Culture of France and rapporteur for the European Parliament on the Telecoms Package – “if the three-strikes approach is against the fundamental principle that we [MEPs] have just recalled, the viability of the system should be questioned”, [3]. But for sure, one cannot act as if that principle doesn’t exist.

Sarkozy’s Goal with His Letter

« Nicolas Sarkozy run a Country which has founded and is presiding European Union. He has to admit that Community Law is also enforced in France, thus withdrawing his draft bill. But he only thinks about serving lobbies from music and movies industries who want at all costs to set a precedent inside European Union, to subsequently generalize the three-strikes approach. The only problem is, that Viviane Reding, Commissioner in charge of Telecoms Package, has (because of political dangers), given up trampling on the clearcut vote of the European Parliament. Therefore, in his letter, Sarkozy asks Barroso to twist Reding’s arm. Indeed, if Commission does not refuse the amendment, France could not alone prevent the amendment to be adopted by the Council of UE.”, has commented a co-founder of La Quadrature du Net(Squaring the Net). “Therefore, Sarkozy tries to force his way through in Council, and his close staff does not hide that they want to subsequently outstrip the European Parliament by having the French bill adopted in emergency procedure before the second reading on the Telecoms Package.”[4]

Actions to take to stand in the way of Sarkozy

La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) calls European citizen and organizations defending fundamental rights to immediately contact M. Barroso [5] for asking him to not comply with Sarkozy’s plea. For one thing, Baraso is not allowed to take order from a Member State. [6] Moreover, Sarkozy asks for some help to bypass the second call to order from the only elected European body.[7] It would be a blatant denial of democracy from the Commission to give in to this request.

La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) also calls European citizen and NGOs to contact their government in order for them to point out to the Commission that they want, as far as they are concerned, that amendment 138 to remain in the proposal that Commission will present on next Council of November 27. To be more efficient, citizen and NGOs should contact in parallel their members of national and European parliaments in order the spread this request.

If they want to show that the European democracy is alive, Commission and Member States should defend the opinion of the European Parliament decrying the three-strikes approach against the French president.


[1] Sarkozy’s letter to Barroso (in French),5340.html

[2] Telecoms Package: European democracy’s victory already threatened

[3] Three-strikes approach: the slap in the face (in French)

[4] Bill on file sharing: panic in UMP (in French)

[5] To contact president Barroso

[6] Would Mr. Sarkozy invite Mr. Barroso to act contrary to the rules that govern his function?

M. Sarkozy voudrait-il que M. Barroso trahisse les devoirs de sa charge ?Would Mr. Sarkozy invite Mr. Barroso to act contrary to the rules that govern his function?

[7] In April 2008, European Parliament has decried three-strikes approach