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Wednesday, 8 September 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition

5. Ongoing negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the Commission statement on ongoing negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

 
  
 

Dear colleagues, I want your attention for a minute. The agenda as adopted does not provide for a catch-the-eye procedure in this debate. However, unless there are any objections, I suggest that, if the speakers on the list stick to their times and there is some time available at the end, I will open up for a short catch-the-eye session. Are there any objections to this? Very good.

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, thank you for giving me, once more, the opportunity to address with you the issue of the ACTA negotiations.

In this respect, let me recall the context of these negotiations: ACTA is an agreement which will be important to safeguard the EU’s competitiveness and jobs on the world market.

Indeed, if we want to remain a competitive economy, we will have to rely on innovation, creativity and brand exclusivity. These are some of our main comparative advantages on the world market. So we need the tools to ensure that they are adequately protected in our main export markets.

And this is about issues of concern to EU citizens: not only jobs, but also consumer safety, security and health.

What we are aiming at is simply setting an international standard in IPR enforcement that is reasonable, balanced and effective, and thus goes beyond the current WTO rules on IPR: the TRIPS agreement. This is the ultimate objective, on which I am sure we all agree.

Last March, I came here to outline the key principles on which the Commission’s participation in these negotiations is based, and committed myself to enhance transparency vis-à-vis Parliament on these negotiations. As you can see from the draft texts resulting from the negotiations held since March, which we have shared with you, the Commission has kept its word and has consistently stuck to these principles. Let me recall to you these principles:

Firstly, the objective of ACTA is to address large-scale infringements of intellectual property rights which have a significant commercial impact, and it is not about checking on the content of travellers’ laptops or computers. It will not lead to limitation of civil liberties or harassment of consumers. If some of you have doubts on this, I would be very happy to hear your arguments.

Secondly, ACTA is only about enforcement of existing intellectual property rights. It will not include provisions modifying substantive intellectual property law. It should set minimum rules on how innovators can enforce their rights in courts, at the borders or over the Internet. For example, ACTA will ensure that European fashion designers, artists or automobile manufacturers can see their rights adequately safeguarded when confronted with counterfeiting of their creations outside Europe.

Thirdly, ACTA must remain in line with the EU acquis, including the current level of harmonisation of IPR enforcement, the E-Commerce Directive, the Regulatory Telecom Framework, and, last but not least, the applicable EU legislation on data protection and privacy. ACTA will not change any EU legislation through the back door. So what then, you will ask me, is the added value? The answer is that our legislation is one of the most effective, and that if other countries adopt it, it will help our innovators.

Fourthly, we will make sure that ACTA does not hamper access to generic medicines. There is now clear language in the draft text ensuring that ACTA will not serve as a basis to interfere with the trade in generic medicines.

Furthermore, ACTA will be consistent with the Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health of 2001, whilst the obligations on border controls, which is the most sensitive issue as regards access to medicines, will not apply to patents.

As regards transparency, we have kept our word to debrief the European Parliament, through dedicated sessions, after each negotiation round, and we will continue to do so. And in line with our commitments under the Framework Agreement, we have, of course, shared the draft texts with the European Parliament.

I also take this opportunity to briefly report the results of the 10th round of ACTA negotiations that took place in Washington between 16 and 20 August 2010.

On the civil, customs and penal chapters, the Parties made some progress, but there was not yet sufficient flexibility by the Parties to address some of the more delicate issues. There was also extensive work on the general and horizontal chapters (preamble, general provisions, definitions, enforcement practices, international cooperation and institutional provisions) which are almost concluded.

But regrettably, in the last two rounds, it has been made increasingly clear that a consensus including all the current ACTA parties will only be reached on the basis of the lowest common denominator, given the variety of views and practices on this issue with the various ACTA participants. This will be at the expense of the level of ambition – and effectiveness – of the agreement.

On the digital environment (Internet), which is one of the most sensitive but also the most ‘innovative’ chapters of ACTA, there was a considerable step back in the last round, with the Parties unable to agree on a common liability exemption regime for Internet service providers.

This is also the case with the very important chapter on customs measures, where several Parties oppose carrying out checks on exports and transit of infringing goods, thus failing to react against the widespread international traffic in counterfeits.

Another area where discussions are disappointing for EU interests relates to which intellectual property rights will be covered by the agreement. The EU has a wide and diversified basis of right holders. A farmer producing products with geographical indications, or a textile company creating designs, are also victims of counterfeiting and also need to be covered by better enforcement rules. The problem is that several of our partners insist that only copyright and trademarks ‘deserve’ to be included in ACTA. We strongly disagree and will continue to firmly push for these offensive EU interests to be respected.

The next round will take place in Tokyo at the end of the month (from 23 September until 1 October 2010). It seems that we are approaching the end game and the Parties are committed to resolving remaining substantive issues at the Tokyo Round.

I remain firmly convinced of the importance of tackling the systematic and widespread abuse of European intellectual property around the world, and of the essential contribution that ACTA can make towards this goal. This is why I remain committed to the success of these negotiations.

However, if, at the end of the process, the EU is faced with a treaty without much concrete added value for our right holders, or with a treaty trying to establish that there are 1st and 2nd category intellectual property rights, we should be ready to reconsider our participation in the agreement.

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary, on behalf of the PPE Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in 2008, 178 million articles were seized by EU customs officials. Of these, 20 million items were dangerous. A total of 54% of the counterfeit products came from China and India was the main culprit as far as medicines were concerned.

Counterfeit goods cause a great deal of damage to the European economy, but the people who buy fake products are also hard hit. I am thinking of medicines, for example. It would be a nightmare for me and for all parents if a sick child were to die after being given medicine, simply because we are not able to prevent fake products and medicines from coming onto the market. We must solve this problem.

Product piracy is a central issue for the European Union. We must protect industries and consumers throughout the world against products which can cause damage to health and result in financial losses for companies. Therefore, I welcome the negotiations on an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) as a major step in the right direction in the fight against product piracy. We know that this agreement is not the only solution to pirating, but it is the first international agreement in this area which involves some states taking up the struggle against product piracy. I would like to see as many other states as possible joining in.

Our group welcomes the positive cooperation between the Commission and Parliament since our resolution in the spring. We regret the fact that we had to go as far as adopting this resolution. However, as a result of regular reports from the Commission, we were able to gain an overview of the negotiations over recent months. I would like to congratulate the negotiators on their latest achievements. It is increasingly difficult even for the critics of ACTA to find negative points in the agreement. The issue of border control measures in the case of patent infringements and, therefore, the concern about the trade in generic medicines, have been removed. Three strikes and the searching of private luggage have been removed. The compulsory liability of Internet service providers has also been removed and the agreement seems to comply with the acquis communautaire. I think we are on the right track.

However, I would like to call on the Commission to maintain its strong position so that it can represent the interests of the European Union. I support the proposal to include patent rights, geographical designations of origin and patent infringements in the section of the agreement relating to civil law. I am very much of the opinion that Parma ham, Tiroler Almkäse and champagne deserve the same level of protection as Coca-Cola or Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Therefore, I am calling on the USA to stop blocking the publication of the documents. Publishing the documents after the New Zealand round has demonstrated how important transparency is and has enabled a great deal of the criticism of the agreement to be silenced.

I would like to ask the Commission to continue to support the publication of the negotiation documents, at the latest before the agreement is signed. I wish the Commission every success during the next round in Japan and I hope for further timely and detailed reports on the negotiations. After the negotiations have come to an end, our group will sit down in peace and quiet to evaluate the results on the basis of the final text and then decide on its position with regard to ratification. I wish the negotiators success.

 
  
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  Kader Arif, on behalf of the S&D Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, you have just said some reassuring things, but I still do not think that the concerns shared by a large number of Members about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) have been completely dispelled.

Back in March, I proposed a resolution, which was passed by a large majority in this Chamber, and which made it possible to publish the negotiating text. During the debate, we called for the acquis communautaire – which you have referred to – the safety and supply of generic medicines to be guaranteed and the fundamental freedoms of our fellow citizens to be respected. We also referred to geographical indications, and we did so in order to tell you our priorities, which I am going to keep on repeating to you so that the position which you will defend in a few weeks’ time in Japan is based on the parliamentary debate which we have managed to initiate.

Yesterday, during the debate on the State of the Union, many speakers quite rightly pointed out that we MEPs are the spokespeople for our fellow citizens and that, without this link, the Commission is in danger of engaging in a sterile confrontation with Parliament. I am therefore asking you, Commissioner, to consider, as a priority, that the MEPs before you are first and foremost your partners and are not here to simply contradict you.

The partnership we want is not one in which we are bound, as your services sometimes seem to want, by a vow of secrecy. Your services have just answered our questions behind closed doors. We are given the latest version of the ACTA text but we are prohibited from sending any messages when we leave these meetings or after we have read the agreement, whereas our role is to alert, explain and ensure things are understood. This is therefore my second request for you to regard the transparency of debates as an element which enriches your deliberations rather than as a breakdown of trust.

In addition to these two main issues, and because I am starting to become accustomed to this type of exercise, I am going to inform you of my concerns. First of all, there is access to medicines. This has been mentioned. You tell us that protecting access is one of your priorities, that you are doing everything possible to ensure that nothing in this agreement hinders their manufacture or free movement. At this point, however, I would ask you about patents. Why do you want to include them in this agreement? The desire to step up the legitimate fight against counterfeiting should not be a pretext for using ACTA as a means of extending the rights of patentees way beyond what is set out in the TRIPS agreement. Please do not confuse generic medicines with counterfeit medicines.

Another important point is safeguards. Texts cannot be too rigorous in ensuring a true balance between the rights of users and those of rights holders. I refer you to the various formulations contained in the TRIPS agreement.

I welcome your comments about the Internet and I have great confidence in the idea that ACTA will not serve to weaken the EU position clearly expressed in the E-Commerce Directive.

Commissioner, there are definitely other issues I should raise this morning, but the first duty I am setting myself is to ensure that, thanks to this debate, we are able to provide as much information as possible on this agreement to all our fellow citizens, and to tell you that the key element for me is the protection of their rights and their fundamental freedoms. This is why I expect you to bear in mind the points raised by Members and to defend them during the negotiations. I also call on you to honour your commitment to publish the text as soon as the negotiations have been completed, whether this is at the end of the round in Japan or at a subsequent stage.

The public debate will have to take place, for example, in this Chamber. I shall therefore ask for a resolution, and we expect you to take our point of view into account before any signing of ACTA takes place, even if this means returning to the negotiating table.

 
  
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  Niccolò Rinaldi, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, ‘acta est fabula, plaudite!’ – ‘the play is over, applaud!’ – as Roman actors used to say at the end of a performance. The play is over and perhaps we are on the eve of its conclusion, although it may not yet be time to applaud.

During this debate, we have been given important reassurances by Mr De Gucht, but we know that 64% of counterfeit goods come from China, which is not a party to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). We will therefore need to assess whether it is all worthwhile – in other words, whether we ought to sign the agreement if it does not bring any real benefits, as the Commissioner concluded. There are not many causes of concern remaining, but they are significant. A lot has been said about the Internet, and we appreciate the Commission’s efforts, but we remain vigilant.

As regards access to medicines, I repeat what has already been demanded by other Members: there can be no lumping together of counterfeit medicines on the one hand and generic medicines on the other. It is vital to allow access to medicines at competitive prices, which are crucial for patients in developing countries. The question I should like to ask is whether the Doha declaration on the TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement and public health will be included at least in the preamble of the ACTA text.

Lastly, as regards geographical indications, we find ourselves in a potentially paradoxical situation, because registered trademarks that might violate geographical indications would enjoy greater protection than the geographical indications themselves. Here, too, TRIPS provides a sounder basis in many respects, and we therefore call for vigilance and a firm stance.

 
  
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  Jan Philipp Albrecht, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, firstly I am pleased that written statement 12 on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) received the required majority of votes yesterday in Parliament. This demonstrates that the European Parliament is continuing to support the clear position which it took in its resolution in March.

Moreover, the written statement enhances one important point. We do not want the exercise of intellectual property rights to be outsourced to private companies. The rule of law and the principles of democracy require that any interference with fundamental rights, including on the Internet, comes from legitimate representatives of the state and that the high standards of our constitution, the Convention on Human Rights and the Treaty of Lisbon continue to apply.

An agreement which encourages private cartels of rights holders to arrange everything to suit their business interests, as the current ACTA draft does, must not be allowed to come into force. The EU Commission’s behaviour during the ACTA negotiations is verging on a violation of our treaties. Instead of the measures which were criticised by Parliament being removed, the wording of the draft agreement has simply been made even more vague. It looks increasingly unlikely that the acquis communautaire will be complied with.

Fortunately, the ongoing protests by the European Parliament now seem to be taking effect. However, if ACTA is to receive a majority of the votes in this House, there is still a lot to be done. This should have become clear to you by yesterday at the latest.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, I would like to begin by welcoming three things that were said at the beginning: first, that there will be no new intellectual property rights; second, that there will be no changes to legislation via the back door; and, third, the increased transparency we have seen from the Commission, particularly vis-à-vis some of the other negotiating partners.

We also need to understand the difference between the digital world and the world of atoms. As Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, once said, in a world of increased bandwidth, cheaper storage and cheaper processing power, digital products tend over time towards free or towards zero. What this means is that many of the industries which are complaining about the digital world have to understand that they must look to new business models. In particular, the phonographic industry and similar industries cannot rely on old business models.

I believe it is a different story in the world of atoms – in the world of the manufacturing of products. We need to make sure that, while the EU may not be competitive in terms of labour costs, EU countries and companies are competitive when it comes to research and design. It must be galling for companies who invest millions – sometimes billions – in new products and new designs to see those products undercut by counterfeit products elsewhere. We lead the world in the field of high-value motor cars and in products like smart phones, and we must be very careful that, after millions or billions are invested in these products, these are not simply undercut.

I welcome the statement by the Commission, but we have to understand the difference between the world of atoms and the digital world.

 
  
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  Helmut Scholz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Mr President, Mr De Gucht, ladies and gentlemen, protecting inventors and companies from having their ideas stolen is an important issue, in particular, for small and medium-sized businesses. However, I would like to ask once again whether product piracy can really be restricted by a small club of countries signing an agreement, especially as these countries are better known for inventions than for forgeries. In my opinion, these negotiations should be taking place within an international context, such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

In general terms, this is all about a new framework and a new commitment. Mr De Gucht, your concluding remarks today are pointing in this direction. I know that the negotiators from the Commission and the Council are aware of this dilemma. Their solution is to give companies comprehensive rights to take legal action in the potential forgers’ sales markets. They want to be able to arrest importers and, according to the draft text, even end customers at the borders, unless individual signatories to the agreement make exceptions. The text states that:

“Parties may exclude from border measures small quantities of goods of a non-commercial nature contained in travellers' personal luggage”.

(DE) They want to impose legislation in Europe that will allow a company to request that goods or software products that have been imported from a signatory to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) are impounded or even destroyed by order of the courts. This can, if necessary, happen without the other party being given a hearing. In the case of a container of fake chainsaws, this may sound like a simple procedure. However, the agreement aims to extend this process to cover areas such as software components.

Will it be possible for software giants, such as Microsoft, to hunt down and destroy their smaller competitors by means of legal proceedings? The giants of the entertainment industry have also succeeded in having their concerns included in the ACTA negotiations. Legal action will be taken not only against downloading and copying, but also against the production and distribution of technologies which, among other things, allow copy protection to be circumvented.

You have said that progress has been made and it is true that the USA has dropped its call for Internet service providers (ISPs) to be held liable. However, in the section of the agreement concerning criminal law, there is still a paragraph on aiding and abetting. In addition, ISPs will be obliged to hand over the personal data of customers who are suspected of violating copyright legislation, following a legitimate request from a company. We have discovered in this House during the course of the SWIFT negotiations that the United States, for example, does not have data protection legislation as we understand it in the European Union. What is the situation in the other countries which are signatories to the agreement? The agreement must not be allowed to interfere with the acquis communautaire. We must be able to protect small and medium-sized companies against patent campaigns by software giants and guarantee that the personal data of Internet users is secure.

 
  
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  Francesco Enrico Speroni, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank the Commissioner and the Council for this debate, although I am sorry to say that it is difficult to talk about anything without having the right documents.

There is nothing on the Internet and Parliament’s services that I contacted have not replied, because the Commission does not make all the texts available. There is nothing else to do, then, but talk in general terms. Nonetheless, it is useful to address this issue, which forms part of Europe’s plan for the protection of our products and, hence, of our companies and our workers. Even so, there is some resistance, for example, with regard to regulating trademarks and products.

It is our duty to protect our workers by checking whether there is any form of unfair competition or competition based on worker exploitation and, in this case, competition based on forgery and counterfeiting. We therefore need to fight such kinds of unacceptable competition precisely to protect European producers and workers, who earn a living from their efforts, their brainpower and their participation, and thus contribute to our continent’s development.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the planned plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) aims to make the fight against product piracy and infringements of copyright more effective by means of international cooperation, coordinating the enforcement of legislation and new laws to protect intellectual property. It goes without saying that we need continued transparency. Measures which will result in the EU Data Protection Directive being watered down or which could even have a negative impact on freedom of expression represent an excessive response to the problem of combating product piracy and infringements of copyright and must not be accepted.

The European Parliament called on the Commission to evaluate the possible effects of the agreement. Unfortunately, this evaluation has not yet been carried out. In my opinion, protecting intellectual property is crucial, but data protection and the protection of privacy are equally important. Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor, said on this subject, and I quote:

‘While intellectual property is important to society and must be protected, it should not be placed above individuals’ fundamental rights to privacy, data protection and other rights.’ That is the end of the quotation. Let us work together on this agreement, while taking into account all existing legislation.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the effective enforcement of existing regulations and laws to combat product piracy and strengthen intellectual property rights is something which is definitely very welcome. However, there is unfortunately a great deal of ignorance and uncertainty in this area among the general public. I regularly receive e-mails from concerned citizens who complain about the lack of transparency during the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations and see ACTA as a major invasion of their rights and freedoms. It is important to provide more information in this area and to highlight the fact that the problem is caused not by ACTA, but in part by the acquis communautaire of the EU.

The preliminary ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union on 19 February 2009 clearly states that Internet service providers can be called to account for infringements of copyright by their customers. Therefore, existing treaties allow for the Internet access of EU citizens to be blocked. The problem lies not with ACTA, but with European Union regulations which could limit the freedoms and rights of EU citizens.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) The ever-increasing volume of counterfeit and pirated products in international trade increases the possibility of a threat to the sustainable development of the global economy, causing not only financial losses to legitimate manufacturers, but also violating the rights of owners of intellectual property and entities participating in manufacturing and production, as well as representing a threat to consumers and a threat to jobs in Europe.

The idea of a multilateral agreement on the fight against piracy and counterfeiting might constitute an effective mechanism for combating such activities, but I also back those members who have emphasised the need for transparency and greater confidence in these negotiations and agreements. I also consider it essential to achieve a balance between the rights we have an interest in protecting and the rights that are essential to society. Exercising or protecting the rights of one group must not interfere with the rights and legitimate interests of another group.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE).(SV) Mr President, I am not at all sure about the exemption for generic medicines. If we grant this, we will, in such cases, also have to grant exemption to all transit, otherwise we will encounter the problems that we have seen in recent years. You say that it will only apply to large-scale commercial cases. In that case, you could say that individuals shall be exempt, rather than that they could be exempt from the rules, could you not?

I am also concerned about the digital environment when there is talk of technological barriers. In this regard, it is said that methods that can be used to circumvent technical protection measures should be regarded as unlawful if they have limited commercial use.

It could also be the case that these are disseminated entirely without financial interest, that someone has no financial interest at all, but instead wishes to support people’s use of technologies that could also be used as ‘circumvention technologies’. How do you view this?

I am also not at all happy about the fact that you are including here controversial aspects from Ipred and with regard to data storage. If we will want to change this after the evaluations, it is stupid to have established it here in writing.

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (S&D).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to make a new contribution to the debate on ACTA and, together with the cosignatories to declaration 12, I have the honour of informing you that this declaration obtained a very large majority in Parliament and that the minimum number of signatures was exceeded.

I am pleased that this declaration is being submitted to you before the final round of negotiations on ACTA, and I believe that you may consider it as a negotiating mandate which is being given to you by the European Parliament.

I should like to remind you of its components: not only, of course, is Parliament asking for transparency and for the opportunity to see the texts during negotiations before it ratifies them; it is also asking for intellectual property rights not to be harmonised under this international treaty and for the freedom of citizens, the protection of private life and the neutrality of the Internet to be maintained and guaranteed.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, we need to ask to what extent anti-counterfeiting trade agreements are simply protection for big business and to what extent they really protect ordinary people. In the case of medicinal products, counterfeit medicines might, at best, be ineffective and rob people of a cure; at worst, they might be injurious and rob them of their health or even their lives.

Counterfeit goods are nearly always produced in low-wage countries and they under-cut genuine manufactured goods produced in our countries at the cost of the jobs of the citizens of our Member States. Sanctions must be taken against countries allowing this practice.

I was pleased to hear the Commission’s assurance that any large-scale infringements would be targeted, and not consumers. However, some actor-supporting lobbyists do indeed want Internet access to be withdrawn from people suspected of repeated unauthorised downloading, and the same people would like deep packet inspection, looking at customers’ communications. Can we be assured that these provisions will not be incorporated at a later stage and override your objections?

 
  
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  Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska (PPE).(PL) I welcome today’s debate on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. In my opinion, it is a step towards strengthening the position of the European Parliament as the institution which represents the citizens of the European Union. I would like to emphasise that the European Parliament is entitled to be informed and consulted by the Commission on the agreements it negotiates on the trade in services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property. Today’s debate gives substance to that right and will be, I hope, the norm for the Commission in the future, too. I would like to draw attention to the fact that the confidential nature of the Commission’s negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement gave rise to a great deal of critical feeling among Internet users. This emotion could have been avoided if the Commission had been willing to inform us much more fully about its efforts in this matter from the beginning.

In a written question which I have submitted to the Commission, I raise the matter of the relationship between the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and European policy on the information society and its paralegal effects.

 
  
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  Eva Lichtenberger (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, Mr De Gucht, you have assured us that this Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will not currently change anything. However, we are not being given the opportunity to form our own opinions, to gain our own insights and to apply our own legal expertise in order to determine whether the collateral damage to citizens’ rights in Europe resulting from this agreement will not be significantly greater than you are claiming. We have to take your word for this. Given that this is the case, why is there no transparency? I know that this comes from the US negotiators, but can the European Commission, in all conscience, simply give in? I think that the answer to this question is no.

My second point concerns geographic designations of origin. I would have made it clear around the negotiating table that these designations of origin are the equivalent of trademarks in Europe. In my opinion, this point must be raised again in the negotiations.

 
  
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  Martin Ehrenhauser (NI).(DE) Mr President, I would like to make three brief points. Firstly, of course, I would like to congratulate the initiators of the written declaration on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). This has now been passed.

My second point concerns transparency and I would like to ask Mr De Gucht one question. How can you say to us as Members of the European Parliament that we have to rely on an American civil liberties organisation in order to receive a copy of the text? I have the text here in front of me. I will give it to you afterwards and ask you to make sure that it is the original version.

My third point relates to the liability of Internet service providers (ISPs). Can you ensure that the subject of the liability of ISPs will not be reintroduced through the back door?

 
  
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  Christian Engström (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, we all agree that counterfeiting is a bad thing and that combating counterfeit goods is good. It is good for European consumers and citizens, and it is also important for European businesses, as has been pointed out. It is good that we protect trademarks and the trademark acquis, including geographical indications.

So far, so good. But, as Mr Kamall has pointed out, there is a difference between the world of atoms and the world of bits. When it comes to the Internet chapter, legitimate concerns have been raised by Internet service providers and other businesses involved in that area. There are concerns that the agreement may, in fact, harm development, harm European businesses and harm the way we take advantage of this new technology.

I would therefore urge the Commission to go ahead, by all means, with the anti-counterfeiting part, but to scrap the Internet chapter. That would be the best solution for everyone.

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, firstly, I would like to thank all the Members of Parliament who have made interventions. This is very valuable information for us a couple of weeks before what will probably be the ‘end game’ in Tokyo, and we will certainly take it into account.

Before speaking about confidentiality, I will answer a couple of technical questions. One was with respect to the TRIPS agreement on public health, and whether this would be explicitly mentioned in the agreement. It is explicitly referred to, as follows: ‘recognising the principles set out in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS agreement on public health adopted on 14 November 2001 by the WTO at the Fourth WTO ministerial conference held in Doha, Qatar’.

There were also some questions on privacy. There again, when you look at the text which is currently being discussed, it says ‘nothing in this agreement shall require any party to disclose information (...) which would be contrary to its law or its international agreements, including laws protecting the right of privacy’. Further mention is made in the draft text under discussion to the effect that, with respect to enforcement in digital environments, enforcement procedures shall be implemented in a manner that, ‘consistent with each party’s law, preserves principles relating to freedom of expression, fair process and privacy’. So, explicit mention is made of all this in the agreements.

Let me say a word on medicines. I do not believe that there is a problem with medicines – not only because of ACTA but also because we are currently engaged in discussions with India on this. They have filed a request with the WTO on medicines. We are in discussion with them and I think we will come to a conclusion soon, one that I think will be appreciated by the European Parliament.

I would also add that these kinds of patents are not covered by the chapter on customs in ACTA. There is an explicit reference to the obligatory licensing practice, which is very important in this respect.

Finally, on confidentiality, we have no problem disclosing the texts that we are discussing, but we are not alone. This is a plurinational negotiation, which means that the other parties around the table also have to agree on what will or will not be made public. The explicit question raised was whether you will have the possibility of discussing the eventual agreement before it is signed.

It is not yet clear whether we will reach an agreement, but if we do, we have made sure that we will be in a position to discuss it before signature, as the Commission has obtained this in the negotiation. As you can see, the press release issued at the end of the Washington Round explicitly states that the ‘parties commit to release the text before deciding to sign it’. I think it is difficult to be any more explicit about this.

Thank you very much for your attention.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Τhe next item is the vote.

(The sitting was suspended for a few minutes)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Edward McMILLAN-SCOTT
Vice-President

 
Last updated: 27 April 2011Legal notice