A renewed call from Green MEPs for ACTA transparency crosses with a reply from the Commission that maintains its old, discredited line that ACTA will remain within the EU acquis.
Last week, the Green group in the European Parliament issued a call for the European Commission to suspend all negotiation on the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) until there is a proper agreement in place for full transparency. By ‘transparency' the Greens mean that the negotiating documents can be made public.
The Greens stress their concerns that ACTA will infringe citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms and that it will impose some form of graduated response measures.
But is the Commission listening? Also last week, a written answer from the Trade Commissioner Karel de Grucht, crossed with the transparency call. The Commission's answer arguably dodgedthe question of transparency. Indeed, the matter of transparency, and what it means, is becoming an issue in itself.
De Grucht was answering a written question from 7 June, which concerned access to medicines and not the Internet. The written question stated that "we clearly asked the Commission to limit the ACTA negotiations to combating only counterfeiting." But De Grucht answered in respect of copyright ( not applicable to medicines), and citing a different part of the text of the Parliament's Resolution from March this year, he said that ACTA will remain in line with the EU acquis, including the current level of harmonisation of IPR enforcement.
So what does transparency mean? It seems that 'transparency' in the European Parliament can have a range of meanings, for example, release only to those willing to sign a confidentiality agreement. The Greens want it to mean full, public disclosure of the ACTA negotiating documents.
The call from the Green/EFA group takes a step towards extracting a common understanding of the term from the Commission. However, as the European Parliament is currently packing up for the summer holidays, it is not clear when any response is to be expected.
Why is it important? ACTA will almost certainly force alterations in the EU acquis communitaire (legal framework) in respect of the Internet. The Commission is frightened of the backlash. In maintaining this state of denial, it may be hoping to wear down the opposition, but the risk is that it will make its own position ever worse.
Answer to Ska Keller from EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Grucht
As there appears to be a problem with the link to the Greens call for ACTA Transparency, I am pasting the entire text here, and will investigate the problem with the link.
Greens/EFA calls for ACTA transparency
Reason for the call
The state of play in the ACTA negotiations require an immediate political response since no texts have been made publicly available from the last round. Background The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a plurilateral agreement aimed at establishing effective enforcement of intellectual property rights. The 9th round of negotiations on the proposed agreement was held last week from June 28 - July 1, 2010, in Lucerne, Switzerland. Participants in the negotiations included Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and USA. The EU was represented by the Commission and the Presidency. The agreement to date includes Initial Provisions, General Obligations, Civil Enforcement, Border Measures, Criminal Enforcement, Enforcement Measures in the Digital Environment, International Cooperation and Institutional Arrangements. The text of the 9th round has not yet been published. According to a news story, only one delegation resisted the public release of the draft ACTA text. Previously, the draft consolidated text has been released after the 8th round negotiations in Wellington, New Zealand albeit without country positions.
The text of the 8th round was published in April thanks in large part to the grand majority vote on the Common Resolution of 10 March 2010 initiated by the Greens/EFA and based on our draft text. Despite claims by negotiators to the contrary, a technical analysis of the text by a broad international community of experts, academics and civil society, as espoused in the Washington Communique, concluded that:
• ACTA will interfere with citizens' fundamental rights and liberties
• ACTA is not consistent with the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
• ACTA will increase border searches or interfere with cross-border transit of legitimate generic medicines
• ACTA strongly encourages "graduated response" disconnections of people from the internet
The Communique has been signed by eleven (11) Greens/EFA ACTA Working Group MEPs and also by MEP Arif in his capacity as spokesperson for the S&D members of the INTA Committee. It is likely this critique is still valid as the June 28 briefing by ACTA negotiators did little to mitigate the concerns of civil society and showed few signs of common understanding other than sharing that there was a consensus to exclude patents from border measures. Further, China and India raised serious concerns at the TRIPS Council in June, consistent with the analysis of the Washington Communique. India has threatened to organise a group of developing countries against ACTA and countries such as China, Pakistan and Brazil spoke out publicly at a June 28 event in Geneva organised by KEI and IQsensato. At the same meeting, China also presented its proposal for a WTO Decision on the "Relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and Intellectual Property Provisions of bilateral, plurilateral Trade Agreements." WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry commented on the need for a multilateral approach to solving problems of international scope, especially in cases where the most vulnerable countries are affected.
Greens/EFA therefore demand the Commission to...
• suspend further talks until an understanding on transparency is reached whereby all texts
emerging from negotiations will be automatically shared with the public, recognising that
negotiating countries are working towards finalising the agreement expeditiously
• hold a hearing specifically to address the concerns of developing countries regarding ACTA
and the undermining of a balanced IP enforcement regime
• conduct an analysis the possible implications for democracy and the rule of law in third
countries of the proposals on ISP liability
• conduct an analysis on ACTA's relationship to TRIPS and its impact on non-party countries
and the international IP and enforcement norms
• make a study on the impact of ACTA on developing countries and technology transfer
• discontinue the alienation of experts, academia and civil society from the ACTA process and
provide opportunities to participate through public comment processes, regular briefings and
sharing of texts
...and invites the Commission to find solutions to the problems ACTA will purportedly solve by...
• returning to and investing in multilateralism to reach an international solution to problems of
counterfeiting that have a particularly broad geographic scope
• negotiating directly with the countries where counterfeit goods originate
• inviting academia and civil society to all negotiation rounds and hold meetings on record (e.g.
briefings or through accreditation) engaging in regular technical consultations
...and in seeking the Parliament's support:
• limit ACTA to counterfeit, remove patents from ACTA
• meet the conditions lined out in the Common Resolution
• address the critique of the Washington Communique
Adopted in Strasbourg 20100707
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) EU crossed wires over ACTA, http://www.iptegrity.com 11 July 2010 .