UPDATE: Thursday 21st June. MEPs in the INTA committee voted 19-12 in favour of David Martin MEP's opinion that ACTA be rejected! This also means you can stop emailing the MEPs in the trade committee about this vote...and get ready to email your MEP about the plenary vote on 4th July! More information on our new blog post.
There's *another* crucial vote about ACTA this week in the European Parliament. This time, the lead committee, the international trade committee (INTA) will have to vote on its recommendation on Thursday (21 June) at 10am. You can help by calling your MEP before the vote!
Once again this is a really big vote. Once again it will really help if you contacted your MEP. Once again, it really will make a difference. The INTA committee is basically in charge of the 'dossier' - meaning they're leading on examining ACTA and recommending to the whole European Parliament whether it should give its consetn to or reject ACTA. They are supposed to take into account the other committee's opinions - which as you may remember, all voted to recommend ACTA is rejected.
Those decisions were influenced hugely by the many people across Europe who got in touch with their MEPs to tell them why they think the European Parliament should reject the treaty. It's now to time to get back behind the wheel and get in touch with the members of the INTA committee to make sure they understand the problems, and why you care about it.
There are seven UK MEPs in the INTA Committee. They're listed below, with contact details.
What's happening in this committee?
David Martin MEP is the lead member of the committee. His draft opinion recommends that ACTA is rejected. That's great! But some pro-ACTA amendments have been tabled - two calling for the adoption of ACTA, and one recommending that the final European Parliament vote be delayed until the decision of the European Court of Justice (the European Commission decided to refer ACTA to the ECJ earlier this year). That's not so great! They will vote on this on Thursday morning (21st) at 10am.
We would like MEPs in the committee to vote in favour of David Martin's opinion - that is to say, to recommend ACTA is rejected. And we believe that the plenary vote should happen as scheduled (this is the vote by the whole of the European Parliament on the ultimate decision, which is due to happen in early July). That means that we think the amendment recommending a delay to the plenary vote should be rejected. This amendment was proposed by MEP Syed Kamall, who represents London,
For all of the MEPs, we need to make sure they understand the reasons that we think ACTA is so flawed that it must be rejected. We believe that ACTA is such an imbalanced treaty that it unnecessarily puts innovation and freedom of expression at risk.
It tries to deal with hugely different issues (counterfeting of physical goods and digital infringements) under one treaty. And it promotes and incentivises the private 'policing' of online content, through for example its broad thresholds for its criminal measures. It exacerbates such problems by failing to provide adequate and robust safeguards for fundamental freedoms. We set out some key points in our briefing paper.
Why shouldn't the vote be delayed?
Syed Kamall MEP has proposed an amendment recommending a delay to the vote, arguing that the Parliament should wait for the decision of the European Court of Justice. It seems to us like this is merely an effort to undermine the momentum behind the effort to reject ACTA, and to take that polticial decision out of the hands of elected representatives. A decision from the ECJ could take years.
We do not believe, for a number of reasons, that the Commission or the European Court of Justice can provide meaningful guarantees about the implementation of ACTA, and that a delay will simply deny citizens and their representatives the chance to make a meaningful political decision about this treaty.
For example, assurances given by the Commission about its own implementation of ACTA wouldn't be legally binding and would therefore not resolve the problems of the lack of clarity in the Agreement. For more on this, see EDRi's outline of the key remaining arguments.
Please tell your MEP if you disagree with this amendment - especially if you are in London and represented by Syed Kamall himself.
This is a test of how democratic and independent the European Parliament can be
Throughout the ACTA process the European Commission has consistently shown a disregard for democratic principles. They have effectively sought to move decisions about ACTA further away from people and their elected representatives. We have seen large numbers of people engaging with difficult debates and complex institutional processes through the passage of ACTA.
There has been a renewed interest in the workings of European democratic institutions, as the European Parliament has considered the treaty and responded to citizens' concerns.
A delay in the vote now will both legitimise this approach and severely undermine the growing democratic maturity of the European Parliament, especially following the recent votes in other committees (all four votes recommended the European Parliament reject ACTA). EDRi have also noted that this could be a watershed moment for the Parliament.
There's a slightly odd quirk to this as well. In tabling an amendment proposing that the committee votes to delay the crucial - and timely - plenary vote on ACTA, Syed Kamall is effectively supporting the European Commissions' efforts to take away this opportunity for elected reperesentatives to make their political decision about the treaty. So if you are a constituent of Syed Kamall, you should certainly mention if you agree that the plenary vote should happen now, rather than being delayed until the opinion from the ECJ.
For more on why we think ACTA is so flawed, see our short briefing paper. EDRI also have a run down of some of the key arguments, and have produced a sample script if you want some advice about what to say.
OK, OK, I get it. What do I need to do?
Please call your MEPs! Explain why you care, and set out what you think they should do on Thursday morning. It will be a huge boost to the effort to defeat ACTA. Here's a list of which MEPs from which constituencies are involved. We have included notes relevant just to Syed Kamall and David Martin MEPs. Remeber, be polite - they're considering ACTA, not responsible for it!!
Get calling! And let us know how you get on.
South East England
East of England
South West of England