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Posts Tagged ‘fta’

The new service IP Watch features an opinion piece from Lassi Jyrkkiö who digs into the penal sanctions technical problem underlying the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA):

“Yet apparently, as the Commission’s chief negotiator Luc Devigne stated – or let slip – on a hearing on 22 March, their perception is that: “We [the EU] have no acquis” on the matter.”

You can’t argue about facts. “Acquis” means the corpus of harmonized EU legislation. The Commission lacks competence when it is not in the acquis. The question was how penal sanctions can be negotiated when the Commission has no competence. I already asked that to Devigne during the first stakeholder meeting. Ever since the inclusion of criminal matters remains a procedural miracle.

Of course maybe some persons thought a competence could be provided ex post, by adoption of the wrecked IPRED2. Under the French presidency a modus was invented in which some member states participate in the negotiations. We may call it the NIT legislative procedure, for “not in the treaties”, where the governments act as sovereign powers like in the good old days. Of course a slight provocation to the Lisbon-regime EU-Parliament, Strasbourg won’t like it. Article 207 TEU. Let me quickly make up a few technical questions: How can e.g. one member state as a sovereign power be legally represented by a delegate from another member state? Do the French really agree with an English-only regime? etc. Cast light on it and it fades to dust.

One recent suspicion was that they at the Commission don’t fully get what “within the acquis” means. Trade Commissioner De Gucht for instance said in the Plenary they won’t go beyond the acquis and then mentioned related criminal law “which by the way is not yet adopted”. If it is not adopted it can’t be in the acquis.

Furthermore Luc Devigne explained at the stakeholder hearing that they won’t go beyond the acquis of existing legislation, and he was incompetent to speak about penal sanctions which are negotiated by Council. Actually, everything beyond the acquis exceeds their competences. So “we will not go beyond the acquis” means nothing. Then there is the infamous “negotiating mandate” from the Council, it is not available, most likely prepared by the Commission and according to rumours silently adopted without consultation of the competent IPR committee via the Trade committee of the Council, then rubberstamped in the Competetive Council Meeting (12 April 08?? – need to check) without further discussions. Again, according to rumours amateurish aspects of the mandate were then somehow sanitized under the French presidency…

At the 22 March stakeholder hearing Trade negotiator Luc Devigne from the Commission finally confirmed that Penal Sanctions are negotiated by the Council. The Council has not explained yet how the NIT legislative procedure works nor does the Commission. Members of the European Parliament seem to be very curious to find out. Because a NIT legislative procedure precedent would enable the Council to circumvent their Lisbon rights.

Ante Wessels stressed in a recent press release that the idea for a governance body able to amend ACTA would even go beyond the NIT escapism:

“Dedicated organisations tend to become champions of their speciality. Strong external checks and balances are needed to counter that. With ACTA, we rather seem to witness a deliberate attempt to create a captive in-crowd.”

I would argue, as the Commission does not care for technicalities, the technicalities would wreck the agreement as many other better focused, less complicated and more advanced attempts for single market regulation before. All players are now able to play shooting gallery and raise all the technicalities. Some persons may decide to save ACTA but others would be wise to leave the sinking ship.

Others may find the ACTA albatross useful for a consultation by the ECJ or reviving IPRED2, the criminal sanctions directive, and reopening customes regulation (revision underway). It is also fascinating as a subject matter for a student willing to write his or her phd in European and international law.

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The ACTA stakeholder meeting last week revealed that ACTA is going nowhere. The best indication for that was the lack of interest expressed by rightsholder groups. No one is interested in the technical mess and the broadened agenda. The poisoned apple was the unpassionate call of a few rightsholders who said they fully support the Commission and negotiator Luc Devigne said “thank you”. That is awful as it may get.

The EU negotiator is forced to deny and bend the truth on multiple fronts. That is a weakness, any supporter can withdraw and say they were deceived (like US-democrats “found out later” they were “deceived” by the Iraqi WMD tales). The Commission was very open about her agenda, now it is forced to hide and deny. Devigne irritates supporters who notice that the Commission lacks the power and guards a technically broken process with contradictory public statements to public and parliament alike.

Mr. McNamee commented for EDRI:

At a meeting in Brussels on 22 March 2010, the European Commission presented a counterfeit version of ACTA to participants. As with any good counterfeit, it bore quite a strong relationship with the genuine article. However, the differences were quite obvious for those in the know.

Mike Masnik puts it in excellent terms:

The talking points from ACTA negotiators seem clear. When accused of being secretive, deny it and insist that you’re being open. If really pushed on the matter, blame mysterious, nameless “others” for keeping the documents secret. Then, when specific items in the text are brought up, insist that these are being misrepresented, and if only you could see the real text (which you can’t, because it’s a secret) you’d know that it was all blown out of proportion. Then, finally, insist that ACTA won’t change any laws. Of course, if that were the case, there would be no need for ACTA at all.

Now, despite Masnik’s view the overall setup was not so inconsistent when you consider the 2008 story from the Commission on ACTA, it was consistent and easy:

  • ACTA won’t change domestic laws. We are a coalition of the willing ready to confirm the status quo beyond TRIPS. We have to shop forums because WIPO and WTO are blocked.
  • ACTA would be used as a trade chip in negotiations with ‘problem states’, and once adopted, traded on them with appropriate trade incentives.

Of course the second was against the UN Charta principles to which the Commission is bound by the EU treaties, a bit like “We have to invade Tschingingistan to save the oil”. But the 2008 narrative is not true anymore.

First of all the Commission negotiators went beyond confirmation of the status quo. All players expected so but following their maximalist negotiations approach they didn’t cheat a bit (cmp. EU-Korea FTA) but went too far. ACTA includes a wide range of new and controversial matters, many of them introduced by the Commission negotiators. Thus ACTA is drawn into a political conflict over parliament scrutiny powers and legislative competences (same on the other side of the Atlantic, cmp. the constitutional criticism on the presidential adoption plan by Lessig). The Commission does not do that in the open. They say they won’t go beyond the acquis but the inclusion of criminal matters which are not in the acquis raises eyebrows. These criminal matters are negotiated by the presidency, under an uncertain procedure. What does “not beyond the acquis” mean?

Secondly, Devigne denied the second item in the answer to Hammerstein, who asked about the Commission’s name and shame list. It seems riddiculous to deny such an approach and plan given the “Global Europe” strategy contents, also given earlier statements from the directorate. They would no do that, indicated Devigne. How pathetic!

Oh, and let’s not mention the desasterous performance of Devigne regarding admitting that they won’t respect the parliament’s resolution on limit to counterfeiting. There he stressed being in line with the acquis again.

What does “not beyond the acquis” mean? It probably does not mean what we ought to think and that provides room for great controversy in Parliament, will attract all parties to dig into the technical vulnerabilities of the process under the Treaties. What DG Trade apparently fails to realise is that they lack competence to go beyond the acquis. When Parliament calls you to respect the acquis, that is like when I am warned to obey the law. So you don’t get any flowers for that. When parliament asks to limit an anti-counterfeit treaty to counterfeit, just do that.

How many hearings of that kind could the Commission still afford, until a superiour would have to pull the plug? Observers noticed how Luc Devigne became the minedog while his colleagues hide away.

On Tuesday a consolidated version of the January state of discussions was leaked on the internet. The text shows that ACTA is nowhere near consensus. Trade negotiators are no specialists for international legal harmonisation. Legal harmonisation takes decades, slow and thoughtful debate.  Now a community of international legal specialists would jump in and inspect the leaked mess. More tricky questions to the negotiating parties ahead. More interest groups interested to put their stakes out the fire. How long would it take unless everyone notices that ACTA has nothing to do with a trade agreement (TRIPs was based on a fiction of barriers to trade) but is legislative? Mind the total costs of ownership (TCO) of untruths. Mind the incapability of the Commission to establish trust in parliament. Mind the technical difficulties of the process and on how many sides it can be challenged. Mind the still unresolved secrecy which attracts attention.

It is ACTA’s beginning of the end.

Open technical questions?

Just approach your ALDE MEP, they will have the next political hearing with the Commission on ACTA. Or contact the Commission, they offered to answer your questions.

Video recordings

part1:

part2:

part3:

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part5:

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David Hammerstein wrote last week:

Written Declaration presented today in Brussels

ACTA is legislation laundering on an international scale, trying to covertly push through what could never be passed in most national parliaments” declared the socialist Member of the European Parliament Lambrinidis in his presentation of a written declaration that aims at establishing the official oppositon to ACTA of Europe´s elected representatives. He also criticized ACTA´s intention of “systematic monitoring of citizens in the hands of internet service providers, giving them more power than police have in anti-terror operations”.
….

Here the article again. The quote from Lambrinidis sounds rather harsh and shrill to me but it is all true. Yes, the misuse of FTA for policy laundry is a problem for our emerging European democracy. David pointed that out. I wrote an article a while ago to try out the Salon.com blog titled What laws and bananas have in common about the same issue.

I used a tone which sounds a bit propagandistic:

No more tariffs and quota for imports and exports of bananas and steam engines but legislation itself is now traded across the Atlantic, across the world. Trade administration, not parliament, makes our laws. Billions of citizens are affected but don’t get consulted in any way. Business and civil society stakeholders and our representative legislators are unable to inspect what is negotiated.

It sounds rather harsh and shrill to me but it is all true. When I read it as if it were from another person I would find it exaggerated. How do we manage to stay calm, moderate and diplomatic when a process is outrageous? Furthermore, how do we bridge a “time gap” until the rest finds out what is going on? You censor yourself, you tune your communication a bit down. Do I endorse the Lambrinidis quote? Absolutely. Would I communicate in that bluntness? Probably not.

A very usual thing to do when a bomb destroys your house is to take a brush and clean the street in front of the ruins.

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LePoint quotes the Commission negotiator for ACTA in Mexico:

“Le principe de rendre publics les documents de travail avant la signature de l’accord a été accepté par tous, reste à savoir quand nous allons le faire”, affirme le négociateur de l’UE, pour qui “les gens seront rassurés lorsqu’ils verront les documents”.

I am wondering how he reconciles the principle of “making it public before it is signed” with the EU treaties. And even more weird, the answer to the question how it is possible to negotiate criminal penal law:

“Oui, nous négocions aussi en matière de droit pénal”, confirme la Commission. “Mais notre mandat respecte le partage des compétences (entre l’UE et les États membres, NDLR)”…

How is that possible? It cannot be found out because the mandate is not made public. Magic, it reminds me of the charlatans who say they live without food and water supply, and it is their personal secret what makes them survive.

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