Key EU parliamentary committees vote on Acta

Three European Parliamentary committees are to vote this week on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta)

Three European Parliamentary committees are voting this week on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta).

The agreement is aimed at setting an international standard for tackling large-scale infringements of intellectual property rights.

Critics of Acta argue that it will lead to censorship of the internet, while supporters insist the agreement will not alter existing laws.

This week, the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) will give their opinions.

JURI will express its opinion on Acta’s impact on the rights of EU citizens; LIBE will publish its analysis of the compatibility of Acta with the Charter of Fundamental Rights; and ITRE will report on Acta's impact on EU industries.

Rapporteurs for LIBE and ITRE recommend Acta's rejection, in line with the view of MEP David Martin, who is steering Acta through the International Trade Committee (INTA). The ITA view is expected to exert strong influence on the final decision on Acta by the European Parliament, which is expected on 2 July.

However, the MEP responsible for Acta in JURI committee does not see how Acta interferes with EU law and is supporting the international agreement.

The opinions of the three committees will be considered by the INTA committee, which will vote in late June to give a formal recommendation on what the European Parliament should do.

To date, 22 European member-states have signed the treaty, including the UK, but it cannot be enacted before it is ratified by the European Parliament.

Non-European countries that have signed the treaty include the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea.

A decision by the European Parliament is expected in July. But in a debate at the London base for the European Parliament and European Commission in May, MEP David Martin said the treaty was unlikely to gain the backing of his peers.

"I estimate it will be a 2:1 vote against, with around 200 for and 400 against, although it is hard to predict,” he said. “I find it impossible it will get through as it stands.”

Martin said Acta was not dead, because it could come into force outside the EU. 

“The future could be to forget the international agreement, stick with our own laws internally or make amendments to Acta and a new treaty could be created," he said.

Earlier in May, Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, said it was unlikely Acta would be adopted in Europe in the face of strong opposition. 

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz and Dunja Mijatovic, head of media freedom for the 56 countries that make up the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), are among high-profile critics of the agreement.

If Acta is adopted, the agreement will then come into force across the EU. If rejected, Acta is expected to be scrapped, but quickly replaced by proposals for new directives by the EC.

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