The day before the EU's International Trade committee (INTA) recommended that the European Parliament should reject ACTA, the EU commissioner with responsibility for the treaty, Karel De Gucht, had given a speech to its members, trying to win them over. Although it was short, it turns out to be highly revealing about the European Commission's future ACTA strategy. Here's what he said:
That is, whatever happens next week, the European Commission will wait for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule on whether ACTA is compatible with EU law. If it is found to be incompatible, De Gucht admits that rather than accept this ruling, the European Commission will try to find some trick to circumvent it:
If the Court questions the conformity of the agreement with the Treaties we will assess at that stage how this can be addressed.
This implicitly confirms that the referral was simply a way to buy time, rather than an honest question about ACTA's legality.
Even assuming the ECJ rules eventually that ACTA is compatible, there could still be a problem if, in the meantime, the European Parliament has voted not to ratify it. Here's what De Gucht says he would do in that case:
Remember that ACTA is now signed, and cannot be altered; so De Gucht is instead trying to fob off European politicians with this vague idea of "clarifications" -- as if more vagueness could somehow rectify the underlying problems of an already dangerously-vague treaty. That's clearly just a sop; here's the real plan:
Second, 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.
This is an extraordinary admission. De Gucht says that even if the European Parliament unequivocally refuses to ratify ACTA next week, he will simply ignore that result, and re-submit it at a later date.
In other words, De Gucht won't accept the idea that the European electorate, through their representatives in the European Parliament, might possibly want to reject something they were not allowed to know about until late in the negotiating process, and to which they were unable to provide any meaningful input. In his view, ACTA must be passed, and ACTA will be passed -- whatever anyone else thinks about it.
Let's hope that the members of the European Parliament bear in mind this undisguised contempt for the democratic process in Europe -- and for them -- when it comes to voting on ACTA next week, and any time thereafter it might be re-presented to them under De Gucht's shameful plans.
First, I would consider proposing some clarifications to ACTA. For example on enforcement in the digital environment. We could look at this in the light of the discussions you will have had on legislative proposals which the European Commission is set to put before the Parliament and the Council. Or for example, we could seek to clarify further the meaning of 'commercial scale'.
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.
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