During the European Plenary ACTA debate ahead of tomorrow’s vote two main groups emerged today.
One recognized the calls from citizens that there were problems with legal ambiguity, with the slippery-slope actions of the treaty, and that for a treaty on counterfeiting it’s odd that the main counterfeiting countries were not included. This group of MEP’s also noted several times that the treaty just won’t work, and that it should “go in the bin” as German MEP Cornelia Ernst put it. These MEP’s plan on rejecting ACTA.
On the other side were those calling to refer things to the European Court of Justice. This call is widely seen as a delaying move, pushing the vote months (maybe even years down the line) and allowing it to pass when public opposition isn’t so united. The main arguments here reiterated figures of job losses and economic impacts. Claims of a hundred thousand jobs lost every year were mentioned, and billions of euros in lost revenue and taxes were brought up several times, but the real heartstring-puller was counterfeit medicines. Plenty of pro-ACTA supporters mentioned that counterfeit medicines have killed people, and so this treaty is needed.
It was the end statements that were probably most interesting though. Karel De Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade, played down the concerns of secrecy and lack of transparency by claiming he was the one that brought ACTA into the open. Clearly he forgot about when MEP’s were forbidden to discuss the contents of ACTA while he was in charge, causing Pirate MEP Christian Engstrom to walk out. He also tried to put the blame for any surveillance society that arises on member states, as that’s where the criminal sanctioned were negotiated.
Meanwhile, ACTA rapporteur David Martin commented on the parallel discussion on twitter, and observed there were two main demographic groups opposed to ACTA. One was the Under25’s, but the other group were central and eastern Europeans, who had previously lived with their freedoms curtailed and were frightened about it happening again. He also noted with incredulity that the impression of listening to the people that elected the MEP’s to office is being populist, while listening to multinational corporations is being responsive. His point being that it’s the job of the European Parliament to represent their Constituents, who are emphatically saying ‘no’.
The stage is now set for a showdown tomorrow. The decision will be between the European Court of Justice and more delays; or an outright rejection.