EU Commission on referral of ACTA to Europe’s highest court
9:00am | 5 April 2012 | by Raegan MacDonald, English
The European Commission announced yesterday that after a month after its original announcement, it has shed more light on the particular question that will be asked the European Court of Justice regarding the legality of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in the EU. The Commission will submit its official question, with legal argumentation, in the next few weeks. After it has officially been submitted, the Court will take between 18-24 months to deliberate.
As we have explained in previous posts (here and here), under the Treaties, the European Commission (or any party that wished to refer the Agreement) does not have much flexibility in terms of what it can ask the Court. The broad legal question is thus: "Is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) compatible with the European Treaties, in particular with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union?". Due to the vagueness of the ACTA text, it is not guaranteed that the CJEU will find it is not in line with “primary” law (the Treaties).
Commissioner for trade, Karel De Gucht again persisted in his attempt to delay the final decision by the European Parliament on ACTA, saying, "...[the referral] is an important input to European public and democratic debate. I therefore hope that the European Parliament will respect the European Court of Justice and await its opinion before determining its own position on ACTA."
Pro-ACTA advocates hoped to delay the final vote on ACTA through a court referral to cool down the controversy around the agreement. Additionally, in the case that the Court doesn’t find that ACTA is in violation with the Treaties, it would give more support for those wishing to vote “yes” in the Parliament.
Last week, the European Parliament indicated it would not refer ACTA to the Court and go instead straight to a vote in the summer -- a decision Access welcomes. It is important to note that the final vote in the EP will happen before the Court provides its view on the Agreement. So, in the case that the Parliament votes “yes” on the agreement, and the Court later finds it is in fact in violation of the Treaties, ACTA will not pass. The only difference will be that Parliamentarians who vote “yes” will have to explain to their constituencies why they consented to an agreement that is in fact illegal in the EU.
The European Parliament holds the fate of ACTA in its hands - if it votes “no”, it will be effectively dismantled -- even in countries that have already signed it. Access urges Parliament to reject this dangerous agreement, which, among other troubling aspects, encourages extra-judicial measures on behalf of third parties and ISPs.
The European Parliament will deliberate on the agreement in individual committees and in workshops and events, notably the S&D Group Open Debate on ACTA on April 12 and the ACTA Stakeholder’s meeting on April 11, hosted by Marietje Schaake (ALDE) and Ivailo Kalfin (S&D). Access will be on the panel of stakeholders, and you can watch the event online here.
Want to help? Sign our petition urging MEPs to vote “no” on ACTA!