ACTA: Important victory for campaigners for internet freedom in Europe

International Trade Committee in the European Parliament rejects ACTA

The International Trade Committee in the European Parliament voted today on the controversial "Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" and rejected it with a clear majority of 19 votes against and 12 in favour.

Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin and member of the International Trade Committee, commented:

"The vote against ACTA today is an important victory in the fight against attacks on our civil liberties. It was defeated in the International Trade Committee thanks to the mobilisations of tens of thousands of people in protests across Europe. Now the pressure must be kept up in advance of the vote on ACTA in the plenary session of the Parliament to ensure that this pernicious attack on internet freedoms driven by the major corporate interests is defeated."

"Making the right choice"? – European Commission defeated

The political groups that voted against ACTA were the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group and the Green Group, both of which had opposed ACTA from the outset, the ALDE group (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD) and the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S+D).

The majority of the European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) supported ACTA.

"The agreement will now be voted on in the plenary session of the European Parliament in July. If there is a major mobilisation again of people, with protests, petitions and the continuation of the bombardment of MEPs with emails, ACTA can be defeated and an important blow struck against the big business agenda of the European Commission," says Paul Murphy.

The Commissioner for International Trade, Karl De Gucht, an outspoken defender of neo-liberalism, addressed the International Trade Committee on the eve of the vote in an attempt to convince the members of the Committee to at least postpone its vote until the European Court of Justice had given a verdict on ACTA. The European Commission – under pressure from the mass movements against ACTA - had referred ACTA to the European Court of Justice for it to decide whether ACTA is compatible with European Law. This strategy was mainly aimed at gaining time, postponing the vote, and demobilising the anti-ACTA movement.

His speech was entitled "Making the right choice". However, the Commissioner also made it very clear that if the members of Parliament do not make the ’right’ choice, the Commission will address the issue of defending intellectual property rights in a different way.

He outlined the following strategy for the European Commission:

"If you decide for a negative vote before the European Court rules, let me tell you that the Commission will nonetheless continue to pursue the current procedure before the Court, as we are entitled to do. A negative vote will not stop the proceedings before the Court of Justice.

If the Court questions the conformity of the agreement with the Treaties we will assess at that stage how this can be addressed."

Additionally, the Commissioner announced that:

"Once we will have identified and discussed these possible clarifications, I would intend to make a second request for consent to the European Parliament. Whether the Parliament will consider it under this legislature or the subsequent one, will be for you to decide."

It seems likely now that ACTA will be defeated in July. However, the stakes for the Commission and European big business are high. Keeping a private stranglehold on intellectual property is a key interest of European big business. We may be confronted with some sort of ACTA II in the future. Therefore the campaign to defend internet freedom needs to continue.