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 The Japanese are staging a signing ceremony for ACTA, but  we should question whether  the EU is ready to join the party.

 The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited the other ACTA  (Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement) participants to a signing ceremony this Saturday.  In a press release, the Japanese Ministry says that all them will attend, which presumably includes the European Commission – and indeed, the member states such as Sweden and Britain. But it is questionable whether there is a  mandate for any EU institution to sign, whilst the European Parliament is still taking legal advice on  the  status of ACTA.  

 The signing ceremony will be held at

Iikura Guest House, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Interestingly, the Japanese Ministry  says that “representatives of those that have completed relevant domestic processes” will be attending, in addition to those countries which took part in drafting ACTA. It is not clear  what they mean – which other countries and what are the ‘relevant domestic processes’?

 What is clear, however, is that the European Union has not ‘completed the relevant domestic processes’. Even though it did participate in drafting ACTA, it is not politically ready to sign. Under Article 218 of the Treaty on European Union, the European Parliament will need to give its consent before that can happen. That means the Parliament has to take a plenary vote to approve ACTA.

Technically, the Council should put the signature, which means the Polish Presidency would do it - if they legally can which has a question-mark hanging over it.

 The Legal Affairs committee is seeking advice before making any recommendation on signing or otherwise. Iptegrity has been given to understand that  The legal affairs committee has turned to the  Parliament’s own legal services in the first instance, and that it is trying to decide whether or not to refer the matter the European court of Justice.

 There are a number of questions which the legal affairs committee wants answered. Top of the list is whether or not ACTA conforms with the EU’s acquis communitaire.  Although the European Commission claims it is compatible, other legal opinions have suggested that it is not. ACTA knocks out procedural safeguards which are enshrined in EU law  – such as the right to a court hearing  – and will infringe on EU privacy law.

However, the shadow rapporteur for the legal affairs ccommitee is the French MEP Marielle Gallo, who is supportive of rightes-holder demands. The International Trade committee takes the lead on ACTA, and the rapporteur for its report is Kader Arif, whose position is unclear on ACTA and copyright issues.

 Iptegrity has also been given to understand that European ISPs have written to the European Parliament, asking for a formal legal opinion on ACTA in respect to  a number of specific matters, including the liability of ISPs.

 And questions to the Commission continue to come from MEPs.  Christian Engström, who sits on the legal affairs, has  asked about ‘fair process’. On what basis does  the Commission  understand ‘fair process’ to be a fundamental principle, when no such language forms part of the EU acquis.

 One of the reasons why there are so many outstanding questions, is that so little is known about how the EU conducted itself during the ACTA negotiations. The advocacy group  European Digital Rights (EDRi) has  requested ACTA preparation documents from the Commission, and had its request refused.

 The Japanese Ministry also says that ACTA will remain open for signing for another 18 months until May 2013. Does that mean the EU has an 18-month deadline to make up its mind?


See also British were active in ACTA negotiations

Netzpolitik on ACTA signing

 FFII report on the ACTA signing

Question to the European Commission from MEP Christian Engström

 Fair process’ in ACTA final text           

 Article 27.2 of the ACTA final text refers to the ‘fundamental principle’ of ‘fair process’.

 Could the Commission explain:

1.         What it understands by ‘fair process’?

2.         How it came to this view? In particular, can the Commission provide references to the specific international legal texts or ACTA preparatory documents on which it bases its understanding of this ‘fundamental principle’?


Press release from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Holding of the Signing Ceremony for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

September 27, 2011
On Saturday, October 1, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan will hold the signing ceremony for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) at Iikura Guest House, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  1. The Agreement was inspired in significant part by Japan’s proposal at the G8 Gleneagles Summit in 2005 to create a new international framework against counterfeit and pirated products, in the context of the heightened awareness of the need for a higher degree of intellectual property protection. Its negotiation has been led by a strong initiative of Japan, the United States and other key partners.
  2. The negotiation has been carried out among Australia, Canada, the European Union and its Member States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States, and reached a general agreement at the negotiation meeting held in Japan in October 2010, followed by the completion of technical and translation work in April 2011.
  3. The signing ceremony will be attended by the representatives of all the participants in the ACTA negotiations, and those that have completed relevant domestic processes will sign the agreement. The agreement is open for signature until May 1, 2013.
  4. On the preceding day, Friday, September 30, an international symposium entitled, “Global Intellectual Property Strategy and the Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake: Eliminating Counterfeit and Pirated Products through ACTA”, will be held in Sendai as a side event of the signing ceremony


Please attribute this article: Monica Horten (2011) Will  the European Commission go to  ACTA party?  28 September 2011 .



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In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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