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From a confirmatory application we learn about dissent from Finland and Sweden:

FI: “Even if FI is of the view that Article 4(1)(a) of the Regulation 1049/2001 concerning the protection of international relations is applicable, it appears that the possibility of extended partial access in accordance with Article 4(6) of the Regulation has not been thoroughly considered.”

SE: “Further partial access should be granted to documents 13382/08, 15588/08, 17249/08, 12076/09 and 5363/10, since there are additional parts that are not covered by the secrecy exception in article 4(1)(a) third indent.”

The Permanent Representatives Committee is accordingly asked to suggest that the Council, at its next meeting:
– record its agreement to the draft reply annexed to this document, as an “A” item, with the Finnish and Swedish delegations voting against,
– decide to publish the result of the vote

I believe a general misconception on behalf of the Council is that EC/1049/2001 puts any constraints on the member states to grant access to Council documents. That may apply to the Council secretariat in its primary application but it does not apply to the Council when answering confirmatory applications. EC/1049/2001 defines the principles and limitations underlying the Citizen’s legal right to public documents. It does not put constraints on the Council to go beyond that. To overcome this confusion wording like “shall” in the context of constraints has to be eliminated from 1049.

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Journalist Monika Ermert provides a wrap-up of the ALDE hearing on ACTA for IP-Watch. Let me share my thoughts on a few other impressions from the April hearing on ACTA by the liberal group, organised by MEP Marietje Schaake (D66) and MEP Alexander Alvaro (FDP) (partial video recordings on youtube):

Servants and masters

When you have a servant you basically want him to obey his master (“you”) without the need for explicit orders and surveillance. When you are forced to give orders you don’t expect your servant to explore all means to circumvent or even oppose your will; you expect him to execute your will and act in accordance with your guidance. This applies to public servants at the European Commission as well. Usually persons in administration restrain themselves but trick a bit. Quite the opposite with DG Trade staff, they act against that rule and push everything to the max, driven by a kind of administrative activism.

What do I mean in the context of ACTA?

I am wondering who actually requested or mandated the EU negotiator to challenge the parliament or the legal base? Why does DG Trade follow an interpretation of the Parliament resolution that seems out of line with the resolution text? The resolution asked to limit ACTA to counterfeiting cases: the alternative interpretation of DG Trade is unsupported by the persons who drafted the resolution, not backed by anyone in Parliament. Did the new EU-Commissioner De Gucht endorse that an EU trade negotiator negotiates with the competent domestic legislator and democratic scrutinizer? I doubt so.

Maximalism

It is the one dimensional “maximalist attitude” which regards politics, legal technicalities, competences, balances, mandates, concerns as simple constraints to be pushed to their limits, because what matters is only your ultimate objective, maximum enforcement. You see the same strategic approach in the broadening of the agenda to include non-counterfeiting, all sorts of diverse rights and controversial legal tools. That ambition broadens also the alliance of its opponents and endangers consensus. Thus my bet that ACTA would “go nowhere”.

What fascinated me about ACTA from the very start of the process, the way in which the Commission brushed away all the technical difficulties, complicated technicalities that were so challenging in the previous ipred2 criminal sanctions process and the ipred1 debate. Unlike IP professionals and scholars they don’t care for the overall legal architecture. They would even call for the provision of “death penalty” for “suspected” counterfeiters and the only thing to hold them back would be the system of law&order, and fundamental rights including the European prohibition of death penalty, so they could not go for that.

My example isn’t as absurd as it may appear. Ironically, maybe without noticing what she called for, an Ebay representative once suggested the physical elimination of counterfeiters in a parliament hearing organised by MEP Mme Herczog, to “take them also off the offline world”. At the same meeting her colleague Arlene McCarthy (uk labour) made a crazy “direct link” between drug dealers, gun crime, child abuse websites, ip infringers and terrorism and called on the ISPs to stick to their “social responsibility” and filter the net. Most famous became the “three strikes/graduated response” idea in the context of ISP liability, language originating from military escalations and draconic penalty laws from the US for repeated offenders.

Three strikes

Net filtering isn’t very popular these days. Particularly relevant in the ACTA context are the controversial “three strikes” policies which lack political backing in Europe, quite the contrary now. At the ALDE hearing the trade negotiator had to admit that they would support non-mandatory recommendations / elements to this end as part of ACTA, because non-mandatory schemes would not change the acquis (Acquis, that is the corpus of existing legislation). I was very impressed. That was huge and I am not sure everyone in the room got the joke. As I don’t care much about the substance of ACTA but more the “technical” side, I was very amazed that they would attempt to slip through that loop hole. Quote:

You may call me a liar [hehe] but that is very clearly the Commission’s position and I will stand by it.

You see, the Commission staff in a harlekin role, kind of funny. At the stakeholder meeting 22 March a support for “three strikes” was still denied (which of course no one believed). There the same person still replied to Mr. Zimmermann it “won’t be induced neither”. A representative of internet provider XS4ALL was smart enough to think about a loop hole, almost like a bunny making friends with the snake, she asked if it “was hard” for the negotiator to get the “three strikes” out at the negotiations table with third nations (because when it is not in the “EU position” it can be played via other parties at the table and end up in the final text). “No one’s ever propose that”, was the answer of the negotiator, three strikes was “no one’s idea”. Rather a surprise given that it is a European idea, and they talked a lot about those graduated response options abroad.

The question remains unanswered who ever requested the EU-Commission to make (formal and informal) proposals or suggestions to trade partners towards this end? Who is actually put in charge here? You cannot expect Parliament to close all possible loopholes of a negotiating position which is not in line with its democratic will.

There is a great legend around the executioner Rosenfeld who killed captured Klaus Stoertebeker and all his fellow victual broethers (pirates) one by one. When he was mentioned by the Hamburg Senate for his dirty work he replied that it wasn’t a big deal for him, he wouldn’t mind the effort to let the members of senate follow in the line. The Senate didn’t feel comfortable with his bloodthirstiness and decided to put him to death.

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From an US NGO source:

KEI has learned that the European Union has proposed language in the ACTA negotiations to require criminal penalties for “inciting, aiding and abetting” certain offenses

As long as criminal provisions are not in the Acquis (as IPRED2 is not adopted) the European Union has no competence to make such proposals in international fora. Period. Commissioner de Gucht additionally promised Parliament they would not go beyond the acquis but apparently still holds some misconceptions what the acquis is about. It is very simple, as long as Ipred2 is not adopted there is no criminal law for these purposes in the Acquis, thus the EU has no competence whatsoever. If the Commissioner exceeds his competences in the negotiations expect a strong political confrontation and litigation before the European Court of Justice.

Luc Devigne from the Commission reportedly said in a meeting with the EPP staff, he has been working as a trade negotiator for the Commission for 15 years and was never scrutinized by parliament before. That whispered joke indicates the difficulties of a Commission unaware of the treaties it is supposed to defend as its guardian, now exposed to a stronger Lisbon regime Parliament. The support for the mostly EPP driven written declaration by other parties is stunning. Over night the conduct of Office from DG Trade became a cross-partisan concern.

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Consultation on the future European Union (EU) – United States of America (US) international agreement on personal data protection and information sharing for law enforcement purposes.

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Quick notes: Today the Spanish minister is grilled over SWIFT in LIBE.

MEP Albrecht for instance stressed an alleged incompatibility of the prolonged agreement with the national constitutional order without getting into details, obviously he has a scrutiny process in mind. Council statement a “nonsequi” another member said and highlighted a contradiction concerning SWIFT adoption, that on the one hand Parliament has to be heard but on the other hand member states argue  parliament intervention may not effect the agreement conclusion.

All of the members seem to be pretty upset about the Council take on SWIFT. My notes on the second minister response:

The Council decided on the substance of Swift.

On the decision substance..

Perview of parliament

Period of change

Extending something which already existst

SWift is under restructuring.

Information from North American can not be given, prior

No itention whatsoever of extracting information.

2 question

30 Nov deadline legal base to maintain of that system, just extentions
under international law impossible to postpone because unilateral decision

this parliament would decide

security and data protection in particular.

in line with charter

time to get information, listen to experts, solid alternative, only intention behind.

NO decision on the substance, No change to status quot, just extention, this parliament will decide.

Highlevel-WG set up between EU and US, soon reports.

Aware of concerns data protection

Has to be debated HERE in the chamber.

Experts telling SWIFT measures very effective in fight against terrorism.

Apparently still no one seems aware of the “business espionage” toxic mix concerning SWIFT data.

A few quick questions that come to my mind:

  • members of US-EU HLG?
  • legal base of US-EU HLG = really a “HLG” in the Com sense?
  • Presidency aware that SWIFT is non-governmental?
  • “extention” in what way?

A rapporteur is assigned for SWIFT (MEP Hennis-Plassaert), PNR (MEP in ‘t Veld, ALDE) etc. LIBE will write to the Legal Service in a fast-track procedure on the substance of SWIFT

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A European Commission consultation wants interested parties (“you”?) to contribute:

This consultation seeks to strengthen and deepen the Commission services’ understanding of the way forward to promote uptake of electronic invoicing within the EU. The objective of this consultation is to collect stakeholders’ reactions on the recommendations proposed by the Expert Group on e-Invoicing in the areas of business requirements, legal framework, interoperability and standards, as well as the proposed approach for implementation and communication.

The EU Commission provides the final expert group report and a consultation document. Unfortunately it is only available in the English working language, not in French, not in German.

Deadline for submissions is end of next month, 26 February 2010.

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