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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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