After a heated debate in Brussels today, the responsible committee in the European Parliament has decided to not send ACTA to the European Court of Justice, but to press on and make a final decision right away. This means that the final battle of ACTA stands right now, and has finished before the height of midsummer.
After the recent huge Europe-wide protests, which caught the politicians by surprise, the European Commission tried to take back the initiative by saying it would send ACTA to the European Court of Justice. In doing so, the Commission would ask for the court’s opinion on whether the repressive legislation package was compatible with human rights and charters of the European Union. Since this would stall ACTA for a year if not more, the activist corps calmed down: with this move from the Commission, the final showdown would now be at least two years out.
This also appears to have been the intent of the European Commission: to drain the protests of energy, sending the message that the final decision has been postponed by some two years. The European Parliament would have its own opportunity to ask questions of the Court regarding ACTA, making sure that the Court got the right and relevant questions.
But all of a sudden, with the committee’s decision to press for a parliamentary decision rather than following the Commission, ACTA is back on the short track for the deciding vote in the European Parliament – regardless whether or not the Commission sends it to European Court of Justice for evaluation. It should also be noted that the European Commission has not made any formal decision to actually get the court’s decision – saying so may or may not have been a smokescreen.
A brief description of the several players here with similar names: the European Commission is a rough equivalent of the Executive Branch in Europe, the European Parliament a rough equivalent of the Legislative Branch, and the European Court of Justice is the highest court of the land. Except the European Parliament doesn’t get to make laws, but only to approve predrafted bills, and manyscore other oddities.
Regardless, ACTA will now be quickly processed in the various committees of the European Parliament, starting with INTA (the International Trade Committee, which owns the issue, and which decided today to not send ACTA to court), and progressing through two or three more committees in April and May, for a final vote in all of Parliament some time in June – possibly, but not definitely, in the June 11-14 timeframe. We have ten weeks in total.
If ACTA dies in European Parliament, then it’s a permakill, and the monopoly lobbies will have to start fighting uphill. If ACTA passes, the same monopolists get tons of new powers to use, and close the door for the foreseeable future behind the legislators for a very necessary reform of the copyright and patent monopolies.
Regardless, with the Parliament pressing forward, it is quite possible that the European Commission admits that its cards have been called and that it doesn’t send ACTA to the European Court of Justice at all; that playing this card was all just a tactical move to drain the activists of energy. If the Commission still sends ACTA to the Court, it will create an odd situation if Parliament says yes and the Court later says no – creating a situation where Parliament would have approved an illegal bill. Therefore, it is now completely safe to vote no to ACTA.
This is the fight we have to win. This is where we must ramp up the pressure on the European Parliament, which is where the battle for next-generation liberties will be going down in the next ten weeks in a series of small but important skirmishes leading up to the end-of-game boss: the vote on the floor of Parliament.
This is it. This is the showdown. This is the fight we have to win. The European Parliament’s vote is going to be the pivotal moment, not just for ACTA, but for the general trends in decades to come.
The ACTA showdown is now in progress, and if us activists don’t show up for the showdown, the show’s going down. We had a beautiful show-up in February, sending tremors to Brussels. Now, we need to repeat that message loud enough to be heard – in all the ways we can think of – for the next two and a half months.
Sources (in Swedish): Hax, blogger from inside the European Parliament, and Amelia Andersdotter, Member of European Parliament on the INTA committee. (Disclosure: we are all affiliated with the same political party.)