Saturday

25th Feb 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.

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.

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.

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

France's Macron issues Brexit warning

The centrist presidential candidate tells talented Britons to come to France and warns against giving the UK "undue advantages" after Brexit, in a speech in London.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations