EU Council Quietly Adopts ACTA, By Hiding It In An Agriculture And Fisheries Meeting
from the hoped-we-wouldn't-notice dept
At the end of last week, the Council of the European Union – which is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies – had a meeting. A group of some 40 ministers for agriculture and fisheries signed off on a range of important matters, including:
Total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for 2012
Actually, there was another item, but from its penultimate position on the agenda it was clearly not really regarded as very important, and was just waved through. Here's how the official press release (pdf) reported it:
Fishing opportunities for 2012 in the Black Sea
Authorisation of four genetically modified varieties
Aid for processed citrus fruit
Welfare of animals during transport
Vaccination against bluetongue
Excess CO2 emissions from new cars
Temporary reception of certain Palestinians
The Council adopted a decision authorising the signing of an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) with Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.
So, continuing the tradition of denying European citizens any opportunity to offer their views on ACTA, the Council of national ministers employed the shabby trick of pushing the treaty through by adopting it without debate at a meeting whose main business had nothing to do with international trade.
ACTA is aimed at establishing an international framework to improve the enforcement of intellectual property right laws and create improved international standards for actions against large-scale infringements of intellectual property. Negotiations were concluded in November 2010.
Interestingly, this is not the first time European politicians have used this subterfuge. In 2002 the European Commission presented a proposal that would allow software patents in Europe (currently, the European Patent Convention forbids patenting programs for computers "as such").
This saga was still going on in 2005 when the software patent proposal was added to the agenda of a fisheries meeting – just like ACTA. On that occasion, the ploy failed, but the Council Presidency went on to adopt the agreement in violation of the procedural rules. The proposal was then passed to the European Parliament, where it was definitively rejected.
Similarly, ACTA will now be passed to the European Parliament for a vote. Although there have been no indications that it will be thrown out there, the same was true of the software patents session, which was expected to approve the measure. One thing is for sure: there is going to be plenty of lobbying for and against ACTA between now and whenever that final vote takes place.