A blazing argument in the European Parliament has shown up the deception of Catherine Trautmann and Alejo-Vidal-Quadras, which puts at risk the neutrality of the Internet and the rights of users to access and distribute content.
At the Conciliation committee meeting on Tuesday, the rapporteur Catherine Trautmann, and the Chairman, Alejo-Vidal-Quadras, came with a prepared script. They had planned to force the delegation to agree
a text circulated by Mrs Trautmann on Monday. This became clear when Mr Alejo-Vidal-Quadras was challenged by Philippe Lamberts, (Greens, Belgium), Christian Engstrom (Sweden, Pirate Party) and Eva-Britt Svensson (Sweden, Left party).
Apparently, Mr Lamberts ‘exploded' after Mr Quadras said that the previous meeting of the Parliament's delegation had agreed to negotiate on the basis of the European Commission's proposed alternative text for Amendment 138 (see my previous article). Mr Lamberts said that Mr Quadras had betrayed the delegation and discredited the chaimanship of the committee.
Mr Quadras was forced to backtrack. He said: " we had a mandate for exploratory talks with the council." He admitted to having discussed the Commission's proposal with the Council, which the delegation had not mandated hims to do. Mr Lamberts said that this was not a polite way to conduct political talks. Mr Quadras eventually admitted that " we have not agreed anything yet."
The row was dispelled by Stavros Lambrinidis (Socialist, Greece) who told them to take it easy.
Nevertheless, Mr Quadras did not give up on his script. His next move was to try to wrap up the meeting with a decree. He asked Mrs Trautmann to read out her text that she had prepared. Mr Lambrinidis said the text was bad, and led a discussion about some inserts, which were made orally - that is, there appeared to be no record taken of them, so in fact, there is no evidence as to whether the final text that is now available (see below) is, or is not, what was agreed.
Mr Quadras then said that this is the text that would be taken to the next trialogue ( which is being held today) . He said so without anyone having seent he text in writing and as a dictator rather than a chairman. Those attending have said that it was apparent that he intended to do exactly as he had previously agreed with someone behind the scenes, and not to take note of the delegation and they criticise him for very poor policy-making.
Indeed, it is poor policy-making, because it ignores the real issue, which concerns the European Parliament's Amendment 138, and the principles of open access to the Internet and opposition to graduated response copyright enforcement measures.
This text mandates member states to legislate for government measures restrictiing the Internet. There is a need for legal opinion, but that legal opinion needs to take account of the policy agenda, and the Harbour report. To focus only on the words in the text, will be a further betrayal of European Internet users.
It is also betrayal of the European Parliament's role as the democratically elected representatives of European citizens. It is evident that Mr Quadras and Mrs Trautmann have attempted to deceive the delegation and to push through an outcome to the Telecoms Package which the Council, and the Commission are dicatating. It is also an outcome which industry - both telecoms and copyright - have been lobbying for. It is only due to the intervention of the Green group, and the left, that their deception has been stalled, and there is a little more time for citizens to input their views to the Parliament.
Mr Quadras and his colleagues should remember that they do not represent governments or industry.
On that note, it was interesting that Angelika Niebler (Germany, EPP) objected to any discussion on net neutrality saying that we cannot re-open the Telecoms Package. Mrs Niebler is a known supporter of Deutsche Telekom, which is blocking Skype and is well served by the blocking provisions in the Harbour report.
The net neutrality insertion to the Telecoms Package that Mrs Trautmann was apparently also working on, appears to have been forgotten (see my previous article on the Commission's so-called ‘net neutrality' text which is about monitoring restrictions on the Internet).
Here is the text which Mr Quadras has circulated (we do not know whether it is 'agreed'): It needs legal analysis. The analysis needs to establish what this text means in terms of: copyright enforcement measures as in the Harbour report (USD Article 33.3); blocking of Internet services and applications, as in the Harbour report (USD Article 1.3, and 20.1b, and 21.3) and measures to restrict the Internet to 'protect the children' (German proposals, the aforementioned provisions will also apply).
3a. Measures taken by Member States regarding end-users' access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks shall respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and general principles of Community law.
Any measures liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms may only be taken in exceptional circumstances and imposed if they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society, and shall be subject to adequate procedural safeguards in conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and with general principles of Community law, including effective judicial protection and due process. In particular, any measures may only be adopted as a result of a prior, fair and impartial procedure ensuring inter alia that the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned be fully respected. Furthermore, the right to an effective and timely judicial review shall be guaranteed.This shall not affect the competence of a Member State, in conformity with its own constitutional order and with fundamental rights, to establish a requirement of a judicial decision authorising the measures to be taken.
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) Blazing row over Telecoms Package deception http://www.iptegrity.com 22 October 2009.