The European Parliament's International Trade Committee (INTA) has voted decisively to reject the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and is recommending that the treaty be rejected in next month's plenary vote.
"I welcome the result of today's vote. I am pleased that the committee has acknowledged the problems I have identified in my report and has followed my recommendation to reject ACTA," said David Martin, the lead member of the committee and a Scottish Labour member of the European Parliament in a statement.
The committee members voted 19 to 12 against recommending ACTA, with no abstentions. It also voted by the same margin not to delay any parliamentary vote until after the EU's legal team has checked the treaty. Since the process could take a year or more, opponents of the treaty have seen such prevarication as an attempt to pass ACTA once all the fuss has died down.
"My considered view as a lifelong supporter of human rights and fundamental freedoms, is that there is nothing to fear in this agreement. As I have said before, ACTA is not an attack on our liberties, it is a defence of our livelihoods," said the European Trade Commisioner Karel De Gucht, as part of a plea for delaying the vote until after the EU's legal eagles had delivered a ruling. His request was unsuccessful.
This is the fifth European committee to reject ACTA, and the INTA has formally recommended that parliamentarians reject the treaty in July, which would effectively kill it as it currently stands. Many EU member states have held off on ratifying ACTA until after the European Parliament vote, although the Netherlands has already rejected it.
The treaty, originally proposed by Japan and the US, has been over five years in the making and was formulated in a secretive manner before being presented to governments for their consideration. What's killing it is the popular support mobilized by anti-ACTA groups which has scared EU politicians into rejecting it.
"By recommending the rejection of ACTA, the INTA committee today has said yes to democracy and fundamental rights", Raegan MacDonald, senior policy analyst at digital activists Access told El Reg in an email. "This is a crucial step forward in this long fight, and now we're closer than ever to burying this agreement once and for all."
The same tactics would be unlikely to work in the US. Due to some legal phraseology, the US government is insisting that ACTA can be implemented without a vote on the matter from elected representatives since it's not formally considered to be a treaty. However, if the Europeans vote to reject ACTA next month, it should be the final stake in the heart for the treaty. ®