Thursday, November 05, 2009

ACTA: write to them!

I've now written to both the Green MEP in my region, Caroline Lucas, and my MP, Humfrey Malins.

My e-mail to Caroline Lucas was fairly straightforward to write. Firstly, she's an MEP, and thus European-level matters are more directly relevant to her interests. Additionally, the Commission have been ignoring direct calls, by MEPs, lead by the Green Party, for more transparency in ACTA, so I know that she already agrees that there's a problem.

Dear Dr. Lucas,

In December 2008, lead by the Green Party, the European Parliament adopted a resolution regarding ACTA which:

"... Calls on the Commission and the Member States to negotiate ACTA under conditions of the utmost transparency towards EU citizens, especially with regard to the definitions of the terms "counterfeiting" and "piracy" and the criminal sanction measures foreseen; takes the view that the social impact of the agreement as well as the impact on civil liberties must be assessed; supports the establishment of a task force to examine the implementation of the agreement, by promoting this subject in dialogue between the European Union and third countries and as part of cooperation measures with those countries..." [P6_TA(2008)0634]

Furthermore, in March 2009, the Parliament and Council adopted a Regulation that required that:

"In accordance with Article 255(1) of the EC Treaty, the Commission should immediately make all documents related to the ongoing international negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) publicly available. [Am 109]" [P6_TA-PROV(2009)0114]

Nevertheless, many months later, the ACTA text under discussion is still being discussed behind closed doors, without the opportunity for review or discussion by those whom it will affect if adopted. I would greatly appreciate an explanation as to why this is, and what the Parliament, the Green Party and you yourself are currently doing to address this.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Brett

Writing to Humfrey Malins was more challenging. Firstly, European Commission-level negotiations aren't something that the Commons has any real direct influence on. However, the fact that the Baroness of Uphallow is the European Commissioner for Trade provided a way to demonstrate the ACTA negotiations' direct relevance.

Dear Humfrey Malins,

The UK, as part of the European Commission, is currently in the process of negotiating the plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

This process has been concealed behind a veil of utmost secrecy, despite repeated demands by the European Parliament and Council for greater transparency (see: P6_TA(2008)0634 and P6_TA-PROV(2009)0114). Only a rough outline of the structure of the proposed treaty is available to the billions of people who will be affected by its provisions. I do not believe that, in the case of a trade treaty, such secrecy serves the public interest. The quality and fairness of the results of the process can only be improved by allowing the people in whose name the treaty is being negotiated to see and discuss the actual provisions being suggested.

I have already written to my MEPs, but the Commission has made it quite clear that they intend to continue to ignore the European Parliament's position on this issue. Catherine Ashton is the UK Commissioner and holder of the Commission's Trade portfolio, and as such is responsible for the Commission's role in the ACTA negotiations. (It is interesting to note that the Baroness of Upholland has no background in trade issues and has never been elected to public office.)

Would you be willing to ask the Prime Minister to direct Baroness Ashton to encourage the EU ACTA delegation to open the process to public scrutiny, please? It seems to me this would greatly serve the public interest.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Brett

Hopefully I'll get some useful and timely replies. We'll see!

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