A petition calling on MEPs "to stand for a free and open Internet and reject the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)" was received by the European Parliament on Tuesday. The petition had been signed by almost 2.5 million people from all over the world.
"Receiving a petition supported by more than 2 million people places an even bigger responsibility on us to listen to the European people and offer them a place to express their views to the European institutions", said Petitions Committee chair Erminia Mazzoni (EPP, IT), after the petition was presented.
The European Parliament has only just begun to consider the proposed ACTA deal. It will need to examine it carefully, taking all concerns into account, making a reasoned assessment of the facts and weighing Internet freedom on the one hand and the fight against counterfeiting on the other. The Petitions Committee will decide in the coming weeks how the petition is to be followed up.
The petition was presented by Alex Wilks, Pascal Vollenweider and Anne Agius, on behalf of Avaaz, an organisation which uses the Internet to campaign on various issues. It calls on the European Parliament "to stand for a free and open Internet and reject the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which would destroy it".
The Petitions Committee will decide on the petition's admissibility at its next meeting, on 19-20 March. If the petition is declared admissible (i.e. if it falls within the EU’s sphere of competence), the committee will then hold an open discussion with the petitioners, experts, the European Commission and other stakeholders. This would contribute to the public debate officially launched in the European Parliament this week (see below for list of ACTA events in the coming days).
Ms Mazzoni has also received letters from EU citizens and organisations in favour of ACTA in the past few weeks For example, a letter from the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers says that "ACTA is good for Europe. Without changing EU law, it establishes common procedures for dealing with intellectual property rights infringements across countries accounting for 50% of world trade".
Right to petition
Any European Union citizen or resident may, individually or in association with others, submit a petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the European Union's fields of activity and which affects her or him directly.
The right to petition, enshrined in the EU Treaty, is a fundamental right linked to EU citizenship. It is an effective way for people to be directly involved in the EU's activities and to have their concerns, proposals or complaints specifically addressed by MEPs.
Other ACTA events this week
ACTA will be discussed in public in the International Trade Committee for the first time on Wednesday, 29 February. It is this committee which will make a formal recommendation to the full house on whether or not to approve ACTA. Parliament cannot amend the agreement, but only approve it or reject it. If it does not give its consent, then the agreement falls as far as the EU is concerned.
On 1 March, there will be a public workshop in which MEPs, academic experts, civil society organisations and EU officials will discuss ACTA's possible merits and disadvantages.