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Members of the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) have asked the European Commission for explanations about the very controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (1) in a letter sent to Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, on 4 May. The first thing they want to know is how the institution came to the decision to submit the treaty to the EU Court of Justice for an opinion on its conformity with fundamental rights. "The Committee on Legal Affairs cannot but manifest its profound dissatisfaction about the way the Commission has handled this matter," state the committee members.

The College of Commissioners decided, on 22 February, to submit a question to the EU court and adopted a formal decision to this effect, on 4 April. In the meantime, however, the institution has still not sent the legal document to the court.

In their letter, MEPs ask De Gucht why he has not formally questioned the EP about the possibility of a joint action with the other institutions with respect to referral to the court, since the mandate he was given by the college mentions exploring this possibility.

They also ask De Gucht why the Commission decided only now, after years of negotiations, to submit a question to the court.

MEPs also request the commissioner to react to the opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) on the agreement, published on 24 April. The EDPS warns that the ACTA measures designed to enforce intellectual property rights on the internet are imprecise and may violate rights to privacy and data protection if not implemented correctly.

The JURI committee urges De Gucht to respond without delay to its questions so that it can adopt its opinion on the agreement, on 30 May. The committee had originally planned to do so on 26 April, but decided to postpone the vote in order to seek clarifications from the Commission. The question now is whether the committee will be able to meet the new date. If the vote is postponed again in JURI and in other committees, it will be difficult for the EP to vote on the agreement (approval or rejection) in plenary in July. The institution uses delaying tactics in the same way it uses those to accelerate procedures, to achieve the earliest possible endorsement of the agreement (see Europolitics 4414).

On 8 May, five petitions on ACTA will be debated in the EP Committee on Petitions (PETI).an

Kroes sees 'a world without ACTA'

Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes has given anti-ACTA activists cause to be optimistic: she personally foresees a failure of ACTA and has distanced herself from her fellow commissioners, who officially defend the anti-counterfeiting agreement. 'Don't worry about ACTA any more,' she told participants in a conference on the internet, on 4 May in Berlin. 'We are probably going to live in a world without ACTA and without SOPA [the US Stop Online Piracy Act - Ed],' she said, adding that a way has to be found to remunerate artists in the age of the internet. According to her spokesman, Kroes 'did not say that ACTA is dead and buried,' but 'clearly, she has observed the political reality'. The text stands a good chance of being rejected by MEPs, in the name of individual freedoms in the digital era. For its detractors, the international agreement poses problems for fundamental freedoms, but also for developing countries' access to medicines and seed.

(1) ACTA is an international treaty signed by the EU and 22 member states, on 26 January. It is meant to set up a global international framework to combat infringements of intellectual property rights and counterfeiting.
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Publication:European Report
Date:May 7, 2012
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