Fabian Demicoli

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Controversial agreement has split MEPs

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which is supposed to set standards for responding to piracy and counterfeiting, is coming under attack in the Parliament and in some member states, with civil-liberties campaigners complaining about its sanctions. International negotiations on the agreement were concluded in October 2010, but its ratification is now the subject of heavy lobbying on both sides.Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green MEP, said he had enough support from his own group and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) to submit a resolution to the Parliament's plenary session in March to ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a review as to whether the deal violates EUlaws. Such a review could take as long as two years.

 

Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the S&D group, said "there is a need for greater international co-operation [to combat counterfeiting] but we question whether ACTA would be the righttool to achieve this".

"Since the Parliament can only say ‘Yes' or ‘No' and we cannot amend the text, we as a group might not be able to approve the agreement."

The Parliament's approval is required before the treaty can come into force. The accord also needs to be ratified by national parliaments. It has already been signed by 22 member states. However, Poland is re-considering its approval and the Czech Republic has suspended its approval procedure.
David Martin, a UK centre-left MEP, was appointed on Monday (6 February) to draft the Parliament's stance on ACTA. He replaces Kader Arif, a French centre-left MEP, who resigned from the task in protest against the way the accord had been negotiated by the European Commission. He criticised the Commission for not involving MEPs more during the negotiations.

Martin said he would "not be rushed" in drafting his review and recommendation. He said that he could seek the legal advice of the ECJ "to ensure that ACTA respects the existingbody of EU law".

Albrecht said that MEPs were under pressure from voters to conduct a careful review." Daniel Caspary, a German centre-right MEP, said a thorough debate was required, meaning that MEPs were unlikely to stick to the provisional timetable, which foresees a plenary vote in June.

A first debate on the agreement is scheduled for 29 February in the Parliament's international trade committee. A vote in that committee will not be scheduled until after that committee has received the opinions of four other committees – development; civil liberties, justice and home affairs; legal affairs; and industry, research and energy. A workshop on the content of the agreement is planned for 1 March.

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