Defeat for ACTA a 'victory for democracy'
by Helmut Scholz
It is important to prevent piracy and counterfeiting – but ACTA does not provide the right answers and its rejection by a European Parliament committee represents a victory for democracy, writes MEP
If there is one positive thing about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, it is that it has inspired a broad public debate among the citizens of the European Union and beyond. And it was the European Parliament that opened the way for this debate about transparency.
It is an irony of history that ACTA is now about to provide a moment of victory for democracy – rewarding the voluntary work of numerous activists from the civil and digital rights movement – as this treaty has been perceived by the public as a major threat to democratic rights.
This has been a case of 'the citizens of Europe versus the European Commission'. Today's vote in the parliament's lead international trade committee, INTA, marks a victory for democracy. With 19 votes in favour and 12 against, we refused to give parliament's consent to the controversial agreement.
The vote followed an unprecedented last minute attempt by trade commissioner Karel De Gucht to postpone the decision. He spoke to the committee late Wednesday afternoon to deliver a mixture of threats, appeals and promises to the members. This means the result of the vote is also a personal defeat for the commissioner.
The EU treaty states: "Citizens are directly represented at union level in the European Parliament." In the vote today, this is what MEPs in my group, the European United Left, did. In the days preceding the vote, I received thousands of emails from concerned citizens. We acted on behalf of the majority of Europe's citizens and rejected ACTA, as we had from the beginning.
This is not the time to wait for the comments of judicial experts on individual paragraphs of the proposed treaty text, as others proposed. This is the time for a political decision about the agreement, its content and approach. That means a decision against a regulatory concept that is not needed in this form and not wanted by the people.
The ACTA treaty is an attempt by the few to impose control over the many. The majority of my colleagues joined us in putting an end to this today in the vote. And on July 4, we will do so again in the plenary. The left in parliament defends the rights of the creative sector, and it is necessary to prevent product piracy, but ACTA does not provide the right answers to a complex problem. It is the wrong medicine.
There should be completely new and transparent deliberations in the multilateral framework of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. In this new approach, the problems of counterfeiting goods, of counterfeiting medicine and of ensuring a deserved income for the creative sector in the digital environment need to be addressed separately.
Also in this new debate, we need to have important partners such as China, India or Brazil on board from the beginning and take into consideration the different existing legislative approaches to ensuring and implementing intellectual property rights, consumer protection and the right to access affordable medicine.
Stopping ACTA is a necessary victory by citizens against administrators, in order to open the doors to a new and democratic process of global legislative advancement, and we will reject any attempt by the commission to re-table a version of ACTA with merely cosmetic changes.
Helmut Scholz is a German MEP and a member of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left political group in the European Parliament