Thursday

30th Mar 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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy

Privacy safeguards for EU citizens' personal data that is sent to the United States remains exposed to abuse, due to the lack of oversight and the shift towards increased surveillance under president Trump.

News in Brief

  1. Coalition talks leader expects Dutch government by summer
  2. EU commission allows ex-member Hill to join law firm
  3. Reuters: Greece and lenders move closer to deal
  4. Italy: Le Pen win would mean 'permanent political risk'
  5. Danish parliament misinformed on Nord Stream 1
  6. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU
  7. Support for Germany's anti-EU party fading
  8. Turkish intelligence not welcome in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans