from the how-many-times-do-we-have-to-say-no? dept
Another major milestone has been achieved in the push to get ACTA rejected by the EU: a fifth parliamentary committee has recommended that the European Parliament should refuse to ratify it when it is put to the vote on July 4th, effectively killing it in Europe. The other committees – on legal affairs, civil liberties, industry and international development – recommended rejection a few weeks ago, but today's vote by the international trade committee (INTA) was seen as the most important.
That was reflected during the vote. For example, the hall in which the meeting was held was unusually full, with a large contingent from the press. Unexpectedly, an EU politician who is not aligned with the main groupings turned up to vote, adding to the uncertainty about the final result.
The main INTA report recommended that the European Parliament should reject ACTA, but three amendments were tabled: two to accept ACTA immediately, and one to recommend waiting until after the European Court of Justice had handed down its judgment -- something not expected for a year or two.
At the last minute, the first two amendments were withdrawn, leaving only the call for a postponement of the European Parliament vote. This was rejected by the committee; but then somebody pointed out that there were more votes than people -- a problem EU committees have had before. This meant that that the vote had to be taken again, adding to the already-high tension in the meeting, to confirm that the amendment was indeed being rejected.
Finally, the INTA committee voted on the report containing the recommendation to reject ACTA, and passed it by 19 votes to 12. That was a wider margin than expected, but isn't necessarily representative of what will happen in the plenary vote in July. The European Commission will be making one last effort to convince EU politicians to vote for ACTA, and lobbyists will doubtless be out in strength during the next two weeks.
Gaining the support of five EU committees out of five is an extraordinary achievement -- six months ago, most commentators expected ACTA to sail through the European ratification process without much trouble. European politicians themselves have said that this change of heart is entirely due to the massive wave of protests against ACTA, both on the streets and in the form of thousands of emails and phone calls.
Although the battle is not over yet, it will be hugely significant if such citizen action does succeed in stopping ACTA, since it would send a message to politicians that the views of the public cannot be ignored when it comes to such major policy decisions about the Internet. In this respect, it would complement the similar revolt over SOPA and PIPA in the US -- something that made the current string of European victories against ACTA possible.