25th Oct 2016

Czech Republic stops ratification of anti-counterfeit treaty

  • EU protests against Acta treaty on the rise (Photo: hdzimmermann)

The Czech Republic has stopped ratification of the controversial anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (Acta), becoming the second EU country to do so after Poland.

The decision came after Anonymous - a loose network of cyber activists campaigning against the so-called 'New World Order' - hacked into and released to media the private addresses and telephone numbers of senior Czech politicians.

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.

"We cannot accept under any circumstances, that civil liberties and free access to information are threatened in any way," Prime Minister Petr Necas said on Monday (6 February) on the ratification decision.

Last week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also said there would have to be further discussion on the bill, which has prompted street protests in Warsaw. Opponents say the treaty threatens internet free speech, encourages intrusive surveillance and censorship.

Tusk spoke to and debated Acta with activists and bloggers on Monday but did not withdraw his signature from the treaty. Instead, he said Poland would suspend ratification for up to a year to further examine the bill.

Protests are heating up elsewhere in Europe. In Slovenia, the country’s ambassador to Japan, Helena Drnovsek Zorko, said she regrets having signed the treaty and urged people to demonstrate. Around 2,000 people took to the country’s capital against Acta on Saturday, reports the BBC.

The European Commission signed Acta in January along with 22 member states, the US, Australia and Canada. Five other member states - Cyprus, Estonia, The Netherlands, Germany and Slovakia - still plan to sign up pending technical matters. The international treaty also has to get European Parliament approval before it is adopted in the EU. The parliament has a single Yes or No vote to approve the text but cannot introduce amendments.

For its part, the European Commission says Acta does not restrict freedom of the internet and does not impact or affect existing EU laws. Instead, the commission argues that the bill protects jobs in a Europe that is losing €8 billion annually through counterfeit goods.

Some experts, however, argue that while the text in the final draft of the agreement has been watered down, Western governments could still use it to force poorer countries into adopting copyright policies.

The secrecy surrounding the negotiations has also damaged its credibility in the eyes of its opponents. Socialist MEP Kader Arif resigned as the European Parliament's rapporteur on Acta in late January. He criticised "never-before-seen manoeuvres" by officials preparing the treaty.

Last February, the French digital rights group La Quadrature du Net compiled a list of WikiLeaks cables on Acta. Several of the cables cite Swedish and Italian European negotiators concern over the high level of back-room dealing and lack of transparency during the talks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion