Telecoms Package surprise result as European Parliament makes a vote for democracy and civil liberties on the Internet. But it is not clear how much of a win it is.
Good news on Trautmann as the original Amendment 138 passes.
Bad news on Harbour - Internet limits (blocks) could become law.
**Updated July 7th - See below.**
The Trautmann report in the Telecoms Package will go to a third reading following the vote in favour of a users rights amendment by the European Parliament this afternoon. The original Amendment 138 passed with 407 in favour, 57 against and 151 abstentions. The vote means that the EU debate on the future of the Internet and civil liberties will continue into the Swedish Presidency, at least in the context of the overall Framework legislation. But the Internet-blocking amendments in the Universal Services and Users Rights directive have been carried, and it seems that they could now go on to become law. It is not clear at the moment, whether or not the Harbour report also goes to a 3rd reading.
**Catherine Trautmann: "When a single point of the "compromise" was not adopted, the whole Package will go to Conciliation"
**European Parliament President: "I think the Parliament has understood the consequences of what it has done"
On the other hand, the vote for Amendment 138 was a political signal against French President Sarkozy and his plans for graduated response / 3-strikes copyright enforcement measures. Likewise, it sends a signal to other EU governments such as the UK, Spain and Italy which are considering similar copyright enforcment proposals, that such measures are out of line with established European Internet policies and fundamental rights.
The vote was tense. Rebecca Harms (German, Greens) spoke twice to change the order on the voting list, which
had been set up to mitigate against the adoption of Amendment 138. She looked nervous as she did so. Alexander Alvaro, (German, ALDE) also spoke and asked forthe voting order to be changed. The President agreed to the change on the basis of Rule 155. MEPS were given extra time to make their vote, and the vote was recorded electronically, so that the names of the MEPS will be available showing how they voted. The large number of abstentions could mean that many MEPs were opposed to the "compromise" but were too frightened to vote in favour of Amendment 138.
Mrs Trautmann was not happy. Her amendment 10, the so-called 'fake' 138 was rejected with 468 in favour and 137 against.
The Amendment 138 vote was a single vote of opposition to the Telecoms Package.
On the Harbour report, all of the Citizen's Rights Amendments were rejected, however, the voting list was structured in a way that made it difficult for them to pass. A request by Hanne Dahl (Denmark, IND/DEM) who spoke and asked for the voting order to be changed, was rejected without much consideration by the President. Ms Dahl appeared very nervous as she made the request, again indicating the pressure in the Parliament to pass the Telecoms Package.
The rejection of the Citizens Rights Amendments means that Mr Harbour's amendments on 'conditions limiting access to an/or use of services and applications', have passed - including the new Article 2a and Recital 22a which were never approved by the committee.
I have been going through the roll call votes and I am quite surprised at some of the MEPs who voted in favour of the Harbour report Internet-blocking amendments. They include noted civil liberties MEPs in the ALDE (Liberal) group. I have to wonder if they really understood what they were voting for.
As I have previously reported, the voting list appears to have been manipulated and questions could be asked about this now that it is over.
I am checking up whether or not the Amendment 138 being carried means the whole Package goes to a third reading. Mrs Trautmann's statement, which I have recorded above, indicates that it does. Howver, my first enquiry told me that the Harbour report does not go. If so, then his Internet-limitations - the legal permission for broadband operator to restrict access to services and applications at their discretion, becomes law - unless, there is a requirement for a corresponding amendment in the Framework law, which I also need to check on. My feeling is that it would be difficult to pass the Harbour report into law, whilst the Trautmann report remains outstanding (answers from the lawyers please! )
However, the European Parliament has at least taken a stand against the pressure from the Council and from industry to show a measure of support for citizens and civil liberties on the Internet, and perhaps that is something to be cheerful about.
On the other hand, citizens now need to be extra vigilant that this vote is not eradicated again in the third reading, when the Council will once again try to get the upper hand. They also now have a time lag to educate MEPs and their national politicians on Internet issues.
Updated 7 July 2009:
The whole Package has now been forwrded to the Council . The expectation is that the Council will reject it, on the basis that they will not accept Amendment 138, and it will go to a Third Reading in the European Parliament - Third Reading is also known as 'Conciliation'. There are rules for the Third Reading procedure. A committee will be formed consisting of members from both the Parliament and the Council.
The Third Reading is expected to formally begin in September, but work is going on now behind the scenes. The date for the Third Reading vote is 15 December, however, everything has to be agreed between the Council and the Parliament before then. There are rumours that they want to agree it all in just one meeting that is already in the schedule for 29 September. Should this happen, it is anticipated that the Council will try to push the Parliament to agree to its so-called "compromise" on Amendment 138, which in effect, would pave the way for Internet restrictions and some form of copyright enforcement measures.
The rules permit all second reading amendmendments to be reviewed. This would mean that the Internet blocking amendments in the Harbour report could be reviewed - indeed, they should be reviewed. As the Harbour report currently stands, it permits both the suspension of Internet access and' 'technical measures' such as the blocking of peer-to-peer sites.
Only Amendment 138 offers any protection to Internet users against the deliberate blocking of Internet services and applications by governments and broadband providers.
For the full story of the Telecoms Package, see my book The Copyright Enforcement Enigma: Internet politics and the Telecoms Package
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009)European Parliament rejects Telecoms Package , iptegrity.com,6 May 2009.