MEPs to vote on Acta before summer
By Benjamin Fox
MEPs in the parliament's trade committee Tuesday (27 March) 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.
Deputies rejected the court proposal by a large majority of 21 to five. Immediately after the vote the centre-left Socialist group and the Greens indicated their intention to reject the treaty.
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Bernd Lange, spokesman for the Socialist group on the trade committee, welcomed the result of the vote, saying that he expected the treaty to "probably be buried before the summer."
"Today's decision not to ask for legal advice from the Court of Justice is the first sign that this Parliament is ready to reject Acta. It was a mistake from the beginning to put counterfeiting and Internet content in the same agreement. We cannot support the text as it is."
Meanwhile, Green MEP Amelia Andersdotter commented that the treaty "should never have been concluded in the first place" adding that Acta would "lead to a heavy-handed and repressive enforcement of copyright with no regard to the basic rights of citizens."
However, the Parliament's Liberal group, along with the centre-right EPP, the assembly's largest party grouping, which has been most sympathetic to the treaty during the negotiations, have yet to commit themselves.
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 online.
UK Labour member David Martin, who has been charged with drawing up Parliament's position on the agreement, had mooted the possibility of the EU assembly referring Acta to the Court to respond to questions regarding its implementation.
In a statement on Tuesday, Martin denied that this was "a political trick to delay the decision", arguing that his intention was "to shed some light that would help members of Parliament make their decision."
Internet campaign group La Quadrature Du Net had suggested that the Parliament referring the deal to the Court would have delayed a final decision for over a year.
Last month EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, who led the EU's negotiating team on the treaty, responded to mounting political pressure by asking the Luxembourg based Court for a legal opinion on whether EU laws on privacy and data protection would be affected by Acta.
Under the EU treaties, international treaty agreements such as Acta require the approval of the European Parliament before entering into force in the EU.
Martin is expected to present his opinion on whether the trade committee should accept or reject Acta at the end of April. The trade committee is itself expected to vote on the matter at the end of the following month while a final plenary vote is likely to occur in June.