ACTA – if you think we've won, we've lost
This article is also available in:
Deutsch: ACTA – Wir sind noch lange nicht am Ziel
Following the announcement of David Martin, the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in charge of the ACTA dossier in the European Parliament, that he will advise his colleagues to vote against the proposal, a widespread assumption appears to have developed that ACTA is now dead. This is not just wrong. It is dangerous and wrong.
The background of what's happening in the European Parliament is as follows. The dossier is being handled in five Parliamentary Committees – four are providing “opinions” and one, the International Trade Committee (INTA), has the overall responsibility. Of the four opinion Committees, the MEPs in charge of the dossier, two are (still!) in favour – Marielle Gallo (EPP, France) and Jan Zahradil (ECR, Czech Republic). The other two are opposed – Amelia Andersdottir (Greens/EFA, Sweden) and Dimitrios Droutsas (Socialists & Democrats, Greece). As well as supporting ACTA, Jan Zahradil is also noteworthy as being one of only 28 (4%) MEPs to vote against last week's European Parliament Resolution to limit exports of censorship tools to autocratic regimes.
More notably, if you extrapolate the numbers of MEPs from the political groups of the pro-ACTA rapporteurs, the total is 42%, while the total from the anti-ACTA rapporteurs is 33%. Thankfully, due to the determination of the citizens who protested all across Europe, the situation is no longer that bleak.
The current balance is approximately 52.5% of the Parliament opposed to ACTA and 47.5% in favour. To put it in another way, if just 20 MEPs have their minds changed as a result of the massive lobbying campaign currently underway and organised by the European Commission and big business interests, then ACTA will be adopted. The situation becomes even more precarious when we consider that it often happens that more than 5% of MEPs do not vote (either absent or abstaining) meaning that the chances of the current tiny majority being sufficient are more a matter of luck than anything else.
We are at a stage where every single vote in the European Parliament is of huge value. If the pro-ACTA message of the rapporteurs in the Legal Affairs and (shockingly) the Development Committee prevail, this will create a new momentum and will be used to “prove” that ACTA is a legitimate proposal.
At the same time, there are still Parliamentarians and officials in the European Parliament whose addition to ACTA is more important than their loyalty to the Parliament and European democracy. There are more and more rumours of “non-political” committee officials in certain Parliamentary committees actively working to prevent progress from being made and individual Parliamentarians are still trying to undermine the Parliament's democratic prerogatives by demanding a delay of the vote until the European Court of Justice has ruled.
Assuming that the anti-democratic elements in the European Parliament will not be allowed to have their way, there are two possible outcomes. The first is the anti-ACTA campaign will be anesthetised by complacency – assuming victory, citizens will stop contacting Parliamentarians, will not take part in demonstrations and will reassure MEPs that our attention span is so short that we can be ignored on ACTA, that we can be ignored on the upcoming IPRED Directive, that we can be ignored on the upcoming Data Retention Directive. And we reassure our opponents that no future democratic movement will be able to sustain a campaign as long as needed. We lose. Europe loses.
Or we do our duty for European democracy and maintain our pressure right up until the vote. And then we win. And Europe wins.
EDRi - Stop ACTA campaign page
EDPS new opinion on ACTA (24.02.2012)
Liberals and Democrats reject ACTA (25.04.2012)
(Contribution by Joe McNamee- EDRi)