European Parliament throws spanner in secret ACTA works

, posted: 14-Mar-2010 10:07

This will make the Wellington ACTA negotiations more exciting - the European Parliament has asked to have full access to ACTA documents, and wants this to be granted to the public too.

Furthermore, the ACTA talks should be limited to counterfeiting, include developing and emerging countries (and not just the rich ones), plus, and this is important, they must not be used to limit access to cheap and safe medicines. That last part is often forgotten in the furore around ACTA, and it's hugely important for people everywhere, including New Zealand.

On the Internet side of things, no "three-strikes" rules to be imposed; only the courts can order that people's Internet access is cut off, as anything else would violate their fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and privacy.

No border searches and confiscations without warrants of laptops, mobile phones and MP3 players by customs to be introduced either.

Interestingly enough, the whole ACTA circus seems to be conducted without any mandate from the European Parliament, which threatens to go to the Court of Justice unless its demands are met before the meeting in Wellington.

We'll see if the different countries involved in the ACTA talks, including New Zealand, can ignore the European Parliament, but its resolution is the strongest message so far to them that they must engage with the public and not ride rough-shod over their rights.


Link to the full text of the European Parliament resolution of 10 March 2010 on the transparency and state of play of the ACTA negotiations.


Here are the main points of the resolution, minus the preamble and background to the current text:


1. Points out that since 1 December 2009 the Commission has had a legal obligation to inform Parliament immediately and fully at all stages of international negotiations;

2. Expresses its concern over the lack of a transparent process in the conduct of the ACTA negotiations, a state of affairs at odds with the letter and spirit of the TFEU; is deeply concerned that no legal base was established before the start of the ACTA negotiations and that parliamentary approval for the negotiating mandate was not sought;

3. Calls on the Commission and the Council to grant public and parliamentary access to ACTA negotiation texts and summaries, in accordance with the Treaty and with Regulation 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents;

4. Calls on the Commission and the Council to engage proactively with ACTA negotiation partners to rule out any further negotiations which are confidential as a matter of course and to inform Parliament fully and in a timely manner about its initiatives in this regard; expects the Commission to make proposals prior to the next negotiation round in New Zealand in April 2010, to demand that the issue of transparency is put on the agenda of that meeting and to refer the outcome of the negotiation round to Parliament immediately following its conclusion;

5. Stresses that, unless Parliament is immediately and fully informed at all stages of the negotiations, it reserves its right to take suitable action, including bringing a case before the Court of Justice in order to safeguard its prerogatives;

6. Deplores the calculated choice of the parties not to negotiate through well-established international bodies, such as WIPO and WTO, which have established frameworks for public information and consultation;

7. Calls on the Commission to conduct an impact assessment of the implementation of ACTA with regard to fundamental rights and data protection, ongoing EU efforts to harmonise IPR enforcement measures, and e-commerce, prior to any EU agreement on a consolidated ACTA treaty text, and to consult with Parliament in a timely manner about the results of the assessment;

8. Welcomes affirmations by the Commission that any ACTA agreement will be limited to the enforcement of existing IPRs, with no prejudice for the development of substantive IP law in the European Union;

9. Calls on the Commission to continue the negotiations on ACTA and limit them to the existing European IPR enforcement system against counterfeiting; considers that further ACTA negotiations should include a larger number of developing and emerging countries, with a view to reaching a possible multilateral level of negotiation;

10. Urges the Commission to ensure that the enforcement of ACTA provisions - especially those on copyright enforcement procedures in the digital environment - are fully in line with the acquis communautaire ; demands that no personal searches will be conducted at EU borders and requests full clarification of any clauses that would allow for warrantless searches and confiscation of information storage devices such as laptops, cell phones and MP3 players by border and customs authorities;

11. Considers that in order to respect fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy, while fully observing the principle of subsidiarity, the proposed agreement should not make it possible for any so-called "three-strikes" procedures to be imposed, in full accordance with Parliament's decision on Article 1.1b in the (amending) Directive 2009/140/EC calling for the insertion of a new paragraph 3(a) in Article 1 of Directive 2002/21/EC on the matter of the "three strikes" policy; considers that any agreement must include the stipulation that the closing-off of an individual's Internet access shall be subject to prior examination by a court;

12. Emphasises that privacy and data protection are core values of the European Union, recognised in Article 8 ECHR and Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which must be respected in all the policies and rules adopted by the EU pursuant to Article 16 of the TFEU;

13. Points out that ACTA provisions, notably measures aimed at strengthening powers for cross-border inspection and seizure of goods, should not affect global access to legitimate, affordable and safe medicinal products - including innovative and generic products - on the pretext of combating counterfeiting;

14. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the states party to the ACTA negotiations.

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