New MEP appointed to head up Acta dossier
By Benjamin Fox
British Labour MEP David Martin was appointed on Tuesday (7th February) as the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the European Parliament’s report on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international treaty on copyright and intellectual property protection.
Martin, who has previously been Parliament rapporteur on the Maastricht treaty, as well as a Vice-President of Parliament, replaces French Socialist Kader Arif, who dramatically resigned last week from the rapporteurship complaining about the way negotiations have been carried out to date.
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Martin’s appointment follows the news earlier this week that the Polish and Czech governments have suspended their domestic adoption of the treaty. Other EU governments are also coming under pressure to consider their stance, following a spate of protests by Internet free speech campaigners.
An estimated 100 further demonstrations, including events in London and Paris, are expected to take place this weekend according to website stopacta-protest.info.
The treaty would establish international standards over how copyright infringements are dealt with, with preventative measures including imprisonment and fines.
Martin said that he wanted the Parliament to “have a facts-based discussion and not a debate around myths.”
Commenting that the treaty was designed to be “about better enforcement of existing copyright and intellectual property rights through international cooperation,” he stressed that it "should not change existing European law in this area.
“I will be going through the text thoroughly and take legal advice (including through the European Court of Justice if necessary), to ensure that ACTA respects the existing body of EU law,” he concluded.
Although 22 EU member states have signed the treaty agreement, as well as a range of countries, including the US, Australia and Japan, the deal requires the consent of the European Parliament - as well as all member states - to come into force.
Indeed, ACTA’s passage through the Parliament is expected to be tricky. The assembly has adopted several resolutions since the 2009 elections calling on the Commission, which has negotiated the draft deal for the EU, to be more transparent in making documents and its negotiating stance publicly available.
The centre-right EPP group, which is the Parliament’s largest political group, has so far been most sympathetic to the Commission’s position, but there are widespread concerns about ACTA amongst the Socialist, Liberal and Green groups.
The Parliament’s international trade committee will hold its first discussions on the agreement on 29 February while the Parliament will also organise a public workshop on 1 March. Its final decision is not expected before the June or July plenary sessions.