Rather unsurprisingly, the ACTA news of today is that the European Parliament has suspended the ratification of ACTA. The matter will now be referred to the European Court of Justice. I write ‘unsurprisingly’ because this is exactly what the new rapporteur on ACTA, David Martin, suggested more than a week ago. So is this good news or bad news?
Truth be told, it could go either way and a lot will depend on whether the COJ will get to examine the agreement text or the full ACTA documentation, which as you may know, is still secret. My educated guess on the matter is that they they will only get to see the ACTA agreement text, which has been available since 2010. A further educated guess on my part is that if the COJ looks at the agreement text, they will find nothing really wrong with the trade agreement in and of itself. Why? Because the text is so broad, unspecific and open to interpretation that it is hard to pinpoint what makes it wrong. It is only once you begin to think about what it will mean, that the text becomes dangerous. The question is, will the COJ do that?
Whatever the COJ does, it will in the end, produce a report on its findings. This report will go to the EP or to INTA. It then becomes a matter of proper reading the document. My fear is that many people will read the summary and if things go really wrong, the summary might say something along the lines of “while there are some caveats and things to pay attention to, the treaty text in and of itself does not conflict with current EU laws”. Now, if you were a member of the EU Parliament and had a report like this in front of you together with several others you will have to read, you read this summary, would you be concerned about ACTA or not?
Now remember, this is a worst case scenario. I am not saying it will go like this and I hope with all my heart that the process will be a whole lot more thorough than this. But I have seen the way assemblies of all kinds prepare for meetings and my experience does not give me much hope that this case will be very different.
In short, the future of ACTA is still very much uncertain, ACTA is certainly not dead and buried yet and there is no reason for those who oppose ACTA to sit back and relax in order to wait what the COJ will say when it is done with its work. You can rest assured that the lobby of the other side is working overtime to convince members or Parliament. We need to do the same and with proper arguments too. Don’t call your MEP and say ACTA is bad, specify why you are worried. Be as specific as you can be. There is plenty of material on this blog and various websites around to prepare your case. It helps if you know your MEPs field of interest or expertise. Say he or she is concerned about industry, tell him or her why ACTA is bad for business. If you are Dutch, here is a good site to help you prepare: geenacta.nl.