Friday

22nd Sep 2017

Acta in tatters after MEPs wield veto

The little-loved anti-counterfeit treaty, Acta, has collapsed after MEPs in the European Parliament vetoed it by an overwhelming majority.

After comfortably rejecting a request by the centre-right EPP group to postpone the vote, MEPs voted to scrap the treaty by 478 to 39, with EPP members dominating the 165 abstentions.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

The decisive rejection of the agreement followed last-ditch attempts by centre-right MEPs and the European Commission to delay the decision until the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice had delivered its legal opinion on Acta's compatibility with existing EU law.

Prior to the vote, Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner, the EPP's spokesman on Acta, and Klaus Hehne Lehne, a German centre-right MEP and chairman of the legal affairs committee, argued that parliament should honour the court's right to issue a legal opinion.

Speaking in the parliament debate on Tuesday (3 July) trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, who led the EU negotiating team, insisted that Acta is "not an attack on our liberties, it is a defence of our livelihoods," adding that the parliament's own legal service had itself given it the green light.

However, David Martin, the British centre-left MEP who drafted parliament's recommendation to reject Acta, insisted that the treaty is only alive "thanks to the EPP life-support machine," while urging MEPs to "give it its last rites."

Although Acta's defeat had been widely predicted after five parliament committees voted against it, the result is a huge blow for the commission, which will now have to persuade other signatory countries, including the US, Japan and Canada, to re-open negotiations on the treaty.

It also marks the first time that MEPs have used their new powers to block ratification of an international agreement.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in 2010, parliament must give its consent before international treaties drawn up by the EU executive can be ratified.

Swedish Pirate party MEP, Amelia Andersdotter, described the vote as a "milestone for European democracy and for the political debate on intellectual property protection in the digital age."

However, following the vote, the commission remained defiant about its wish to salvage the treaty, reiterating that the EU executive would "maintain its request to the Court of Justice before deciding on further steps to take."

Despite this, there seems little prospect of a revamped Acta returning to parliament before the next European elections in 2014. Instead, MEPs are expected to encourage the commission to put forward EU-wide legislation on digital piracy.

International negotiations on Acta started in 2006, but were first brought to light in the publication of a series of Wikileaks cables in 2008.

Critics of the agreement have focused their ire on the apparent secrecy of the negotiations, with few documents being made public or released to parliaments, as well as on ambiguous language regarding the reach of criminal sanctions and the role of Internet service providers.

While 22 EU countries originally signed up to Acta, a spate of public protests in early 2012 led to a number of countries halting their ratification process.

Last week, politicians in Australia and the Netherlands became the latest to halt domestic approval of the treaty.

Meanwhile, public opinion hardened against the treaty, with an Internet campaign group Avaaz attracting more than 2.5 million signatures for a petition calling for Acta to be scrapped.

Welcoming the veto by MEPs, Alex Wilks, Avaaz's campaign director, claimed that "axing Acta is a historic victory for people power against corporate control" before warning the Commission in the future to "include the public and Parliament from the start, rather than try to bulldoze treaties through."

Focus

Acta unraveling as Netherlands joins nay-sayers

The controversial anti-counterfeit treaty Acta is in danger of unraveling, with Dutch and Australian politicians the latest to cast doubt on it, despite a rearguard effort by the EU Commission and the creative industries lobby to save it.

Focus

Acta on the brink as MEPs prepare for key vote

The future of controversial anti-counterfeit treaty Acta remains uncertain as MEPs on the European Parliament’s trade committee weigh up whether to approve or reject the deal.

EU 'embarrassed' by Catalan 'taboo'

Faced with the growing tension between the Spanish and Catalan governments, the member states and EU institutions would prefer not to get involved.

Quiet showdown in Barcelona

Thousands of Catalans have taken to the streets, in protest against the Spanish government's efforts to prevent the independence referendum. Both sides know that violence would go against their cause.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  2. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  3. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  5. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  6. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  9. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  10. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  11. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  12. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies