European Parliament Declares Its Independence From The European Commission With A Massive Rejection Of ACTA. Now What?

from the power-to-the-people dept

In a plenary vote today, the European Parliament has rejected ACTA by 478 votes to 39, with 165 abstentions. That followed a failed attempt by the right-of-center EPP Group to call for a postponement. Although the final result was not totally unexpected, since the signs had been pointing this way for a time, it nonetheless represents a huge victory for campaigners who had more or less given up hope of stopping ACTA in Europe even a few months ago. So the question now becomes: what are the ramifications?

In its closing speech, the European Commission repeated its statement that it would wait for the European Court of Justice’s opinion on the compatibility of ACTA with the EU’s laws, even if the vote went against it. It also hinted that it might then call for another vote on ACTA in the European Parliament. Whether that was simply a bluff, or whether it will go ahead with this seemingly pointless exercise, is unclear.

David Martin, the EU parliamentarian charged with handling the ACTA vote, said afterwards in a press conference that he did not believe the Commission could simply re-submit ACTA in its present form. Changing ACTA would require agreement from the other ACTA signatories, which is likely to be hard to obtain, but even then Martin was skeptical that ACTA was the right way to address the problem of counterfeit goods. Moreover, the sheer size of the majority against ACTA today means that the Commission can’t realistically hope that next time things will go much better. Instead, Martin suggested splitting ACTA into two new and quite distinct treaties — one dealing with physical counterfeits, the other with online infringement.

Martin also said that he believed that ACTA is dead, and not only in the European Union. For example, he noted that Australia’s politicians were having second thoughts even before the EU vote. If, in the wake of today’s resounding rejection, Australia also refuses to ratify the treaty, it will leave ACTA looking tattered and hardly the exemplary globe-spanning agreement its supporters have been pushing for. And that’s assuming that the US administration can resolve the issues surrounding its own approval of the treaty, and can muster enough ratifications among other signatories so that ACTA comes into force. And as people are already pointing out, if ACTA does collapse, TPP might be next.

The true measure of the effect of the European Parliament’s rejection of ACTA remains to be seen; but two things are already clear. The first is a new recognition that European citizens not only care deeply about key issues like freedom and privacy, but that they are keen to engage with politicians on these and related subjects, as the President of the European Parliament acknowledged in a statement after the ACTA vote:

The debate on ACTA demonstrated the existence of European public opinion that transcends national borders. All over Europe, people were engaged in protests and debates. The mobilisation of public opinion was unprecedented. As the President of the European Parliament, I am committed to dialogue with citizens and to make Europe more democratic and understandable.

The second point was noted by David Martin in a blog post published shortly after ACTA’s defeat:

This is a historic day in terms of European politics. For the first time the European Parliament has used the powers granted by the Lisbon Treaty to reject an International Trade Agreement. The Commission and the Council will now be aware that they cannot overrun the Parliament, which represents and defends citizens’ rights. This vote represents true democracy in action and the coming of age of the European Parliament.

In other words, the rejection of ACTA by the EU is not just a victory for the activists who took to the streets of Europe earlier this year, and the huge numbers of people who contacted their politicians to express their concern: this is also a victory for the European Parliament, which hitherto has been little more than a rubber stamp for the European Commission’s proposals.

That has important consequences for the future, since it means that the Commission will need to be more circumspect when dealing with the Parliament. That, in its turn, is likely to lead to more transparency and participation by European citizens in the process of crafting new laws and treaties. In particular, it means that whatever the European Commission comes up with as a response to this major defeat over ACTA, it will not be able to assume that it can always get what it wants. Today’s subtle but important shift in power within European politics will also be felt at the international level, since the Commission’s negotiators will no longer be able to conduct meetings behind closed doors that fail to take into account what the European Parliament — and ultimately the people of Europe — are willing to accept.

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Comments on “European Parliament Declares Its Independence From The European Commission With A Massive Rejection Of ACTA. Now What?”

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Niall (profile) says:


We’re off to see the Wisard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz…!!

Well done EU Parliament! Maybe now you can grow a backbone and be the organisation that you are meant to be, instead of another League of Nations…

Let me just say, this makes me proud to be European. Now, to find out who voted for this proposal… I think we have elections coming up!

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: YAY!

I hate to say it, but I agree with you.

I’ve always been a committed Euro-Sceptic and have vehemently argued against any transition of powers from the UK to Europe.

However, seeing the shameful way my government signed off on ACTA (and numerous other recent opressive acts) and the way the EU parliament has listened to the people I’m less sure.

Today, I’m proud to be European.

Jay says:

Re: YAY! has a nice idea to send flowers to all the MEPs that voted no, personally i’m inclined to send a cactus to some of the people that voted yes with a note saying “insert this into orifice of choice”.

All that aside, i’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the consequences of this, like when the US tells India that they have to sign ACTA to trade with them and India just says “Fine, we’ll sell our stuff to Europe instead then”.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: YAY!

Here is the list of people who voted for ACTA:

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, We may have been “a-bunch-of-useless-colonies” for a while. We then became the most powerful nation in the world.

Of course sadly we have now slipped back into the “useless” category. I must say, it is very conflicting being an American, I am extremely proud of what this nation once was and the principles it was built upon, but I am now disgusted when I look at what it has become and how far we have strayed from those principles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t really see a conflict as much as a misunderstanding.

Being “American” isn’t really about loyalty to a country, as much as loyalty to a set of principles. If it were all about loyalty to a nation those in most of the US would still likely be British citizens.

The “confusion” comes when a nation (or more accurately the government administering that nation) slowly fails to live up to the principles that nation was founded upon (as the US has slowly started to do).

I will still be a loyal American, even if the US, as a country, ceases to be such.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, I guess really what it comes down to is I am very proud to be American. I’m proud of what this nation is supposed to be. Along with that I will gladly fight and die for this country if it comes to that.

Now an important point to make is I will NOT fight and die for the government in its current form. I am loyal to my country not to the corrupt government that now runs it.

the cleptoid says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“I must say, it is very conflicting being an American, I am extremely proud of what this nation once was and the principles it was built upon, but I am now disgusted when I look at what it has become and how far we have strayed from those principles.” i feel the same way and im british. i cant identify myself with the tag english any longer. thanks for commenting.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

To be fair to you guys, you did, and you have somewhat. I only take that stance because I got so fed up with clueless “we-are-the-only-people-in-the-world” Americans asking if I were celebrating 4th July and if not why not? Knowing I’m Scottish/British. So… I looked into the history, saw that really, you were pretty useless at the time, what with more pressing things like France attacking us everywhere (you really owe them!) and our mad King getting involved again.

Other than you guys, we managed to get control (for a while) of everything else we wanted and half the world besides. See how long that lasted? I suspect American Exceptionalism is going to have some exceptional disappointments in the years to come.

Anonymous Coward says:

the annoying thing is that, in my opinion, it should never have come or been allowed to come to this. politicians and governments need to remember and realise that they are only in their respective positions because of the people. if they do not do what is best for or at least take into account the needs and the views of the people they will lose their jobs! simples! business is important, of course, but it should never, under any circumstances be more important, particularly when those businesses are benefiting but people aren’t or when specific countries are benefiting but all countries aren’t. to bill ACTA and similar bills as being ‘negotiated’ was one of the most insulting and piss taking comments i have ever come across. no public representation was included but all US entertainment industries were. i doubt if it will happen like that again, at least, not in the EU and i foresee TPP going down the same road unless there are some serious changes made, bloody quick! and they will have to be greater than the BULL SHIT put out yesterday by the USTR!!

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Nothing at all subtle about that vote

Even if the EPP got a case of the parliamentary stupids and abstained en masse or just walked out the vote is overwhelming.

I can’t see the Commission trying to bring it back now, though their arrogance in this process is enough to convince me that they can’t recognize road kill when they see it. Road kill as in run over by a dozen D-9 Caterpillars. About as subtle too.

Good on ’em. The trip from rubber stamp to actual parliament is hard but it seems the MEPs have taken up the cudgel in a big, big way.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nothing at all subtle about that vote

Hmm, mostly French and German MEPs voting ‘for’. A UK LibDem voted ‘for’ as well, I’m shocked – this is normally something LibDems vote against – but then, he’s from Hampshire, so possibly a closet Tory. Interestingly, the UK Vice-Chair of the International Trade Committee didn’t vote.

maclypse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Try Sweden. The current conservative government still cream in their pants every time someone mentions ACTA. They have been spoon feeding the population half-truths and fabrications for a long time, and I’m honestly not sure if this massive rejection in the EU will make them see the light.

Hope it doesn’t and they get nuked out of the next election as the voters defect to the greens and the pirate party.

Aaanyway..! Happy day! July 4th is actually feeling a little bit like independence day here in the old world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In Denmark we have a brown government (blue + red) all of the governing parties are represented in EP and all of them voting no in EU. However, they are still vehemently defending ACTA and calling it a travesty that it got voted down in EU.

Greens in Denmark has the danish minister of trade and she has been one of the most loud and most incomprehensible protectors of ACTA. The only arguments from the minister of trade was a rejection of the arguments of the protesters and a restatement of some completely unsolicitated growth-numbers that ACTA would have on the danish economy.

Sweden has a pirate party and that will probably drive the debate in a more reasonable direction, but do not believe that it will be much better.

Minimum Wage Shill says:

Re: Hello, I need my troll hazing fix ...

“I haven’t seen a roll on Techdirt all day. “

Fine, I guess I’ll have to do, since none of the other shills seem to be doing their jobs!!!

the only reason this bill failed is because everyone wants stricter IP laws with longer extensions. everyone kept on complaining to the parliament that these laws didn’t go far enough. ip lengths need to be further extended and piracy must be stopped!!! that’s what all the ACTA protesting was all about, but you techdirt freetards kept on misinterpreting them to say that they were about stopping copyrights and not expanding it.

so next time parliament will address the public outrage by introducing an even stricter bill that will stop piracy at all costs!!!! and then the population will be happy and stop protesting.

now where is my raise??

[citation needed or GTFO] says:

One-Hit Wonder

And to think that the critics out there believed the deaths of SOPA and PIPA were flukes. Now there’s just the TPP to worry about…

However, why do I get the feeling that history will repeat itself and there will be a retaliating strike the day after like they did with Megaupload?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: One-Hit Wonder

There’s also that nonsense UN ITU proposal to take over the Internet. With the entire US Congress unanimously opposed to it, I don’t see it going forward. One thing you can always count on is that when the US government views something as a threat to its money or power, there will be action. Still a good thing to protest though, just to make sure.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unlike the UN, we have 330 million citizens who mostly live in 1st World conditions with 1st World buying power. We also kind of have a military (NATO), but even so, we have the French and UK militaries, which are two of the more powerful non-superpowers. And that’s without adding EEA + Switzerland (in financial terms).

Anyway, who gives a shit about the US, they are as navel-gazing as the French.

Anonymous Coward says:

Now if only Canada had the balls to do the same...

Canada refused to listen to it’s own citizens and considers their rights in favour of the US Entertainment industry and Celine Dion…

Remember all who in Canada signed ACTA, added Digital locks and signed on to TPP…

Harper, Maxime Bernier, Tony Clements, Bev Oda, Prentice and Verner

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Now if only Canada had the balls to do the same...

We’re allowed to sit outside the door, far enough away that we can’t hear or comment on anything while we exchange poutine and tacos with Mexico.

Oh, and I hope you didn’t expect anything better from the former natural governing party — The Liberals. They did this sort of thing all the time.

Maple flavoured taco anyone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Remember Sam I am

I don’t believe people have seen hair or hide of him online too often, ever since Jon Newton outed him.

On the other hand, we do have a good handful of trolls to use TF2 Medic responses on. Did ze Frauloweries have zeir Mittelschmerz? I guess all his sleeping giant artist friends are still sleeping!

TDR says:

I can see it now, the maximalist thugs trying to brain us with ACTA, stopped short as Raiden (the EU Parliament) sits calmly, sparks flying, and says, “Ah, ah. I don’t think so.”

And somewhere, the shills are all doing the Darth Vader emo yell. In the meantime, the rest of us all around the world rejoice at the death of ACTA.

“And if we should win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday. But as the day when the internet cried out in one voice, ‘We will not go quietly into the night! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!’ “

The Day That ACTA Died
Bye, bye, that bill ACTA’s died
Took my uploads to the locker
But the locker was down
Them good old boys
Were seeding torrents and files
Sayin’ this’ll be the day that it dies
This’ll be the day that it dies

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, this appears to be another great example of why the European Union doesn’t really work out. Too much of it is made out of powerless bodies, with no simple way to bind the member countries to decisions made at this level.

Sort of sucks, but it explains why this is likely to go away at some point.

Anonymous Coward says:

just as importantly, the EUP has declared it’s independence from the US government and equally as important, from the US entertainment and pharma industries. all these entities would have benefited greatly from ACTA being introduced into law, much more so than any other industry or government in any other country. bloody well done to the EU as well for standing up for their citizens rather than dropping trousers so the US could shaft them, again!

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

ACTA Fraud by Obama

The US has NOT adopted ACTA,OHbummer never submitted the treaty to the Senate for approval and so ACTA is in no way binding on the US. Any attempt to enforce any provisions would be a violation of the US Constitution and a reason for impeachment proceedings. The victim could also likely sue for malicious prosecution.

With the EU out of the picture and Oz rethinking now all we need to do is kill TPP.

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