ACTA Being Dissected In European ParliamentBy: Chris Richardson - April 30, 2012
Although the treaty has been rejected by some prominent members and advisors of the European Parliament, the ratification process is underway. No, this doesn’t mean ACTA will be ratified by parliament members, but it does mean that, despite on-record rejections, the approval/rejection process is going ahead as various committees debate ACTA’s pros and cons, before issuing an opinion to the European Parliament.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a revealing look at the process ACTA is currently being subjected to, and let’s just say the checks and balances system is being fully represented. As many as five committees are dissecting the treaty, in an effort to determine if ACTA will benefit European Union countries:
The first step involves four committees: the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), and the Development Committee (DEVE). Each must each review ACTA according to their Committee’s particular subject matter expertise, and deliver an opinion to the fifth and lead Committee, the International Trade Committee (INTA).
The INTA Committee plays the key role of recommending ACTA’s adoption or rejection to European Parliament. While INTA’s opinion is highly influential, it is not binding.
Which means ACTA could still be ratified by the European Union, regardless of the recommendations of rejection. That being said, the ratification process is much more complex, even after the recommendations of the five committees are received. Furthermore, even if the MEPs (Members of European Parliament) vote to accept ACTA as is–no amendments are allowed to be introduced during this process–the individual EU members must ratify ACTA for their country. The EFF’s article reveals more about this process:
…individual EU member states must decide whether or not to ratify ACTA. This is because the agreement requires countries to put in place broader criminal sanctions for those who infringe IP, and for those who aid and abet them. EU law is not harmonized in relation to criminal penalties for IP infringement. Criminal laws are within the exclusive legislative power of the individual EU member states and so they must ratify ACTA for those provisions to be given effect. Five member states have now suspended ratification of ACTA (Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Bulgaria) and Germany has said that it will wait to see how the European Parliament votes before deciding to ratify.
While the influence of these committees is hard to ignore, the EFF reveals ACTA survival (or its demise) depends a great deal on Parliamentary vote, with MEPs also possessing a great deal of power and influence in this regard:
Everything comes down to how MEPs vote in the Parliamentary plenary vote. MEPs in European Parliament are members of political parties, and analysts in Europe are now trying to tabulate how the political party groups will vote on ACTA… the numbers look closer than you might think: 52.5% of the Parliament opposed to ACTA, to 47.5% in favor…
Based on those final numbers, it’s pretty clear why the EFF is looking to silence the “ACTA is dead in Europe” talk. Aside from that being an incorrect way to look at the issue, it’s also dangerous because such an incorrect state of mind can cause complacency from the public, which could be mistaken as support and/or a state of acceptance for the treaty.
Instead of growing complacent, the EFF recommends using your voice even louder than you did before. Make sure that members of the European Parliament can here those cries of ACTA rejection.