Saturday, May 12, 2012

Commission sends ACTA question to court

Is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) compatible with the treaties governing the European Union, in particular the Charter of Fundamental Rights? 

That is the question before the Union’s highest court. John Clancy, the spokesperson for Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, issued a press release dated May 11 confirming that the European Commission has referred the issue of ACTA’s legality to the European Court of Justice. Under articles 207 and 218 of the EU Treaty, ACTA needs the consent of the European Parliament as well as ratification by the Member States. But ACTA simply does not have the parliamentary votes to pass.

The Greens are unequivocally against the measure, as are the Progressive Alliance (the Socialist group), the Liberals, and the United/Nordic Green Left. There are 736 members of the European Parliament (MEPs)  so the treaty would need 368 votes in order to move on to state-by-state ratification. With the anti-ACTA forces comprising four of the political groups that account for more than 368 MEPs, and only an up-or-down vote available at this stage, ACTA seems to be effectively dead. Sending the matter to the court seems like an attempt to keep it on life support, which is why the Socialist group welcomed an earlier decision by a parliamentary committee not to do so. For a video of the group's leader, Hannes Swoboda, explaining why the Parliament should treat the future of ACTA as a political matter not a legal one, click here.  According to the Greens, the Commission's referral to the court may bring "an important dimension to clarifying the legality o the document" but will not interfere with Parliament's timetable, with a vote on ACTA happening very soon.

Commissioner Karel De Gucht

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