Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

Focus

Battle lines drawn up in EU row on Acta

  • (Photo: Billy R)

The European Commission has stepped into the growing row over the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, Acta, as leading MEPs refuse to fast-track parliamentary approval due to bad faith in the talks.

Speaking to EUobserver in Brussels on Thursday (2 February), EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding reiterated her position that Acta does not detract from any laws already in force in the EU, noting that the commission has "tested it on European law and results are positive. It is fine with European legislation."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Hackers succeeded in forcing the European Parliament website off-line for several hours in protest. (Photo: European Parliament)

She voiced concern that "Acta has been twisted and misunderstood" and added that "it is not a battlefield for the freedom of the press."

The European Commission signed Acta - an international agreement on copyright and intellectual property protection - last week along with 22 member states, the US, Australia and Canada.

Brussels expects the remaining five EU countries - Cyprus, Estonia, The Netherlands, Germany and Slovakia - to come on board shortly after sorting out technical issues.

But there is a growing backlash by MEPs, some of whom foresee a veto on the deal.

For his part, German deputy Bernd Lange, the Socialist group's point-man on international trade, criticised the commission's lack of good faith during the negotiations. "The commission failed in its transparency policy and it did not share information with the parliament over the negotiation process," he said.

The Parliament has consistently demanded access to documents related to the negotiations carried out on their behalf by the Commission in a series of written declarations backed by the centre-right EPP, European liberals and the Socialists dating back to 2008.

Lange dashed commission hopes the parliament will move toward a swift approval telling press: "I doubt the report will be voted before the summer. There are still many open questions on how this agreement would affect citizens and specific areas such as access to generic medicines and net neutrality. We don't want internet providers to become the sheriffs of cyberspace."

He added: "We will examine the text in detail and maybe ask the European Court of Justice for a legal opinion."

Parliament does not have the right to table amendments to Acta as it does on most other bills - as it is an international agreement - but instead has a single vote whether to approve the text or not.

The international trade committee in the European Parliament will hold its first discussion on the agreement at the end of February and a vote in the plenary is initially scheduled for June.

Remarking on the procedure, Lange said: "Now the only possibility we have in the European Parliament is either to give our consent or refuse the whole text, without any chance to amend it. It is a critical decision for the EU and we cannot vote in a rush."

Lange became the Socialist spokesman on Acta after last week's dramatic resignation by Acta rapporteur, French Socialist Kader Arif, who dubbed the negotiations a "masquerade" designed to rush through the law without proper public consultation.

The Socialist group is expected to retain the rapporteurship, with veteran British left-wing MEP David Martin touted by some sources as a possible candidate.

The Acta row engulfing the EU institutions follows similar events in the US.

Following widespread media and online criticism, including a blackout of its English-language sites by Wikipedia, Acta-type US Internet laws Sopa and Pipa were shelved by congress last month.

In the hours following the publication of the EU signatories on Acta, bloggers and online campaigners made frenzied attempts to lobby MEPs, with critics of Acta saying it infringes data privacy and civil liberties.

In Warsaw, thousands took to the streets shouting slogans such as "No to censorship" and "A free internet", while hackers succeeded in forcing the European Parliament website off-line for several hours last Thursday.

US envoy talks down fears on internet snooping

A senior US official has tried to dispel the notion that post-9/11 America abuses internet privacy, as EU law-makers and civil liberties activists look to the future of web policing.

Politicians divided on 'Big Brother' Internet laws

Heated debate on online privacy law has re-emerged in Washington with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act set to be the first bill on internet piracy to be adopted by the US Congress.

New MEP appointed to head up Acta dossier

British Labour MEP David Martin was appointed on Tuesday as the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the European Parliament’s report on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an international treaty on copyright and intellectual property protection.

EU will not start Brexit future talks before March

Transition talks could start in January, and detailed negotiations on the future and trade relations in mid-April, as Brussels awaits for London to say what sort of relationship it wants. Last week's deal is now 'Davis-proofed', one EU official said.

News in Brief

  1. EU bank delays gas pipeline decision
  2. Hungary's leftwing parties join Jobbik in anti-Orban protest
  3. Barnier: EU will not accept UK backtracking on Brexit deal
  4. Puigdemont to return to Catalonia if elected
  5. Commission approves EasyJet partial takeover of Air Berlin
  6. EU medical command centre due next year
  7. Auditors: EU 'green' farm payments fail ecology criteria
  8. Austria gas explosion creates Italian energy 'emergency'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Last chance for Poland to return property to its rightful owners
  2. Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan
  3. Volkswagen tells EU: we will fail on our recall promise
  4. EU will not start Brexit future talks before March
  5. Bitcoin risky but 'limited phenomenon', says EU
  6. Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?
  7. Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees
  8. New Polish PM brings same old government

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level