Saturday

25th Nov 2017

Focus

EU commission admits mistake on Acta

  • An Acta protest - "once we have unhappy or frustrated citizens on the squares or in the streets, it's already too late for the communication" (Photo: Agnes Lisik)

The European Commission has said it was surprised by the scale of opposition to a global anti-counterfeit treaty, having underestimated the power of social media to mobilise protesters.

Maros Sefcovic, a commission vice-president, on Tuesday (20 March) admitted his institution was caught on the back foot when thousands of people earlier this year took to the streets to protest the agreement.

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.

“What is the power of the people? We saw it recently here in January and February when we suddenly realised that, in spite of the freezing temperatures, we had thousands of people in different squares in Europe protesting against Acta."

Acta – the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – is meant to protect intellectual property rights, as well as target counterfeit goods and generic medicines, but critics say it undermines freedom of expression and privacy.

The European Commission, negotiating the treaty alongside EU member states since 2008, has often been in the firing line over the secrecy of the international discussions.

But the issue really flared up when it and 22 member states signed the document in January and formal ratification began.

“We saw how our absence in the world of social media on this particular topic caused us a lot of troubles,” Sefcovic told a Brussels audience.

“I think this is a lesson for all of us that we have to be much more active and in a much more communicative mood when it comes to such sensitive topics in the future,” he added.

The protests took place in several cities in Europe, resulting in a series of member states deciding to suspend ratification. The European Parliament, which can reject the treaty, received a two-million strong global petition against Acta.

The commission for its part made tactical semi-retreat in February by saying it would turn over the treaty to the EU's highest court to see if it breached any EU laws, particularly on privacy.

"We saw this huge wave of communication on the social media to which we didn't react on time (causing) the situation where we need now to backtrack a little bit and look for reassurances from the European Court of Justice," said Sefcovic.

But some believe the commission took the easy way by seeking to depoliticise the discussion and focus it on legalese.

Martin Schulz, head of the European Parliament, recently suggested that by taking the court step, the commission had removed the immediate chance for parliament to discuss an issue that citizens feel strongly about.

EU parliament chief joins anti-Acta camp

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has spoken out against a new intellectual property regime, amid growing signs it will face problems getting past MEPs.

Letter

Acta is a crucial step forward

There has been a great deal of rumour and speculation surrounding Acta and it is unfortunate that the media increases these rumours and misinformation.

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

The EU will on Wednesday announce plans to set up a European cyber crime centre while at the end of the week an EU treaty article on participatory democracy goes live.

MEPs to vote on Acta before summer

MEPs in the parliament's trade committee Tuesday rejected a proposal to refer Acta to the European Court of Justice, meaning the controversial anti-counterfeit treaty is set to be voted on before summer.

UK has 10 days to make Brexit progress

British prime minister Theresa May was told to make progress on the financial settlement, and Ireland, before talks can move to the next phase.

EU still giving gas projects 'fast-track' status

The European Commission published on Friday a list of projects of common interest, which receive preferential treatment. Environmental lobbyists accuse the Commission of trying to fool the public with number games.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Germany remains 'active' in EU
  2. Work with Israel, Egypt on gas exploration, says Commission
  3. Only seven EU states have 'advanced' stage climate plans
  4. EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries
  5. EU approves joint Irish electricity scheme
  6. German president to launch 'Grand Coalition' talks
  7. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  8. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  9. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  10. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  11. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  12. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition