The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

 In the latest spat between the European Union institutions over ACTA,  a report by the Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is turning into a political football.  Iptegrity can reveal that the European Commission will hit  back at the EDPS, whose recent report was critical of ACTA from a fundamental rights viewpoint. The first round was fired in a meeting of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee, which has had a sneak preview of the – as yet unpublished – Commission riposte.

The EDPS report, analysing ACTA solely from the perspective of the right to privacy,  criticised ACTA was  its lack of specificity. The EDPS report said that ACTA risked  widescale monitoring of Internet users, and contained insufficient safeguards against abusive surveillance  practices.

 Unsurprisingly, the EDPS report has not gone down well in certiain parts of the Commission. The European Commission has apparently come back  - via the Civil Liberties  committee – and said that  just because ACTA is vague on some points,  and could  be implemented in an unlawful way, that does not mean it would be.

 Or, to put it another way, the essence of the European  Commission’s argument is that ACTA’s vagueness on fundamental rights does not mean that it would be implemented in a way that infringes those rights. 

 The Commission gave the Civil Liberties  committee an initial reaction to the EDPS report, prior to compiling a formal response.  The Committee had waited for the Commission’s note on EDPS before presenting its Opinion on ACTA at the LIBE meeting on Tuesday (see also ACTA would prematurely strangle debate, says civil liberties rapporteur )

  The matter of the EDPS Opinion was raised at the LIBE meeting  by Baroness Sarah Ludford, a British Liberal Democrat MEP. She questioned the rapporteur, Dimitrios Droutsas, to get his view on what the  Commission had said.

 A representative of the Commission was present to provide  the LIBE Committee a verbal response. Mr Pedro Velasco Martins,  a member of the ACTA negotiating team, gave what he described as ‘an essential element of clarification’.

 Curiously, Pedro Velasco Martins  said that it is ‘acknowledged that ACTA contains safeguards and that ACTA respects fundamental rights’. (It was not clear to me who it is that has acknowledged this ).

 Mr Velasco Martins  argued that ‘ACTA has all of the safeguards in the TRIPS agreement, and all countries signed up to the WTO need to comply with TRIPS.’  Moreover, he said that TRIPS compatibility with fundamental rights “has not been put into question since 1996”.  (NB: The Internet was in its infancy in 1996 and the problem did not exist.)

 Mr Velasco Martins confirmed that the European Commission has asked the Parliament to take the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) into consideration before it votes.

The ECJ is expected to provide an opinion on ACTA based on a request from the Commission. It is not yet clear whether the request has been transmitted to the ECJ, and therefore it is not known how long the court will take to deliver it.

From the European Parliament’s viewpoint, waiting for the ECJ  would be likely to mean a delay to the vote of an indeterminate period. The Parliament is taking the view that consent to ACTA is a political decision that should be taken independently of the ECJ.

This is an original article from You may re-publish it under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to  Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, EU Commission fires back at data protection chief , , 10  May   2012 . Commercial users - please contact me









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