A member of the ruling faction in the European Parliament has come up with an initiative to impose sanctions against Russia that he said was supporting Ukraine’s regime. Russia has been in a waiting stance ever since the escalation on Tuesday, when Ukraine’s capital Kiev descended into more chaos.
This came today from Poland’s MEP Jacek Sariush-Volsky of the center-right European People’s Party at a press conference in the EU parliament.
However, a spokesperson with the European Commission ruled out the possibility of sanctions against Russia ahead of the EU foreign chiefs’ meeting on February 20.
Conversely, the spokesman said that the 28 foreign policy heads of EU member countries were going to engage in consultations with Russia in order to clear up all controversies that exist between Moscow and Brussels on the possible outcome of an association deal between Ukraine and the EU.
Russia blames ‘extremists’ for Ukraine crisis, suggests attempted coup
Russia has apportioned all blame for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine on the extremists. This is according to President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“The president believes that the ongoing situation in Ukraine is the fault of the extremists,” Mr. Peskov said today.
He added Russia wished that its Ukrainian partners would “ensure the settlement of the situation that has taken shape as soon as possible.”
“Moscow strongly condemns violence of radical elements, who in the breach of all agreements previously reached actually used the implementation of the conditions on amnestying previously detained people and returned to violent actions immediately,” Peskov told reporters.
“Besides, their actions can be treated and are treated in Moscow solely as an attempt at a state coup,” Peskov said. “Together with the seizure of state organizations in various cities of Ukraine, the seizure of law enforcement facilities and attempts to seize arms occurs as well,” he said.
Russia biding its time on Ukraine
Moscow is keeping tabs on Ukraine but will not interfere with the crisis for now, President Putin’s spokesman has said Wednesday. Russia has been in a waiting stance ever since the escalation on Tuesday, when Ukraine’s capital Kiev descended into more chaos as death toll rose to 25 people.
“The Kremlin is closely watching the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and we will definitely speak on it a bit later,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today in an interview with online magazine Slon.
“The idea is not to intervene in the Kiev unrest. We’ve said that many times, the Kremlin will stay true to this stance.”
Militants’ actions in Kiev on Fe 18-19 not spontaneous, but staged – Russian diplomat
Chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov believes that militants’ actions on Kiev streets on February 18-19 are not spontaneous, but staged.
The senator noted the common delusion that the so-called Maidan and its battle squad is not stage-managed, it is Cossak outlaws and “national power”. “The very events at Grushevsky Street disproved it: the militants dealt with law enforcers’ attacks too skillfully, refilled armory of shields, casks and clubs, and added cocktail bombs to convert it into napalm. The course of street riots February 18-19 showed that the militants fight in the so-called “Halych format” — it came to gunfire, and there are fatalities on both sides. There is evident organized nature behind the fighting,” Margelov believes.
In addition, he said that “after a fragile truce, the Maidan gains momentum in provinces: in Lvov, Ternopol, Ivano-Frankovsk”. “They not only occupy state offices there, but storm police wards and dismantle Berkut officers,” the Russian senator stated.
Margelov expressed confidence that “debacles and shooting that John Kerry dubbed “fight of the Ukrainian majority for Europe’s democratic future” are fairly staged and managed by experienced specialists in street fighting”. “Klitschko and Yatsenyuk hardly possess such military talents,” he assumed, adding that the job of these politicians is “to compose joint plans with the West to make up an oppositionist government and carry out a constitutional reform, which ought to be followed by western financial aid”.
Chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee says it’s early to make any forecasts yet. “It would be a great achievement to stop the street mayhem and start a responsible political dialogue. Still, even this may not consolidate the Ukrainian society. It’s split: I cannot remember a single Ukrainian parliament that hadn’t fistfights,” the senator concluded.
A new political phenomenon, which characterizes the New World Order (NWO) of neoliberal globalization and the parliamentary junta, is the effective abolition of the old political divide – established formally during the French Revolution – between Right and Left. On the Right, were all those political forces that supported the continuation and reproduction of the “establishment”, once represented by the monarchy and later by bourgeois parliamentary “democracy” and the capitalist market economy, while on the Left were those who advocated the overthrow of the establishment in the above sense, ranging from anti-monarchists to Marxists, anarchists, antisystemic ecologists (unlike today’s washed-out Greens) etc. By definition, then, the Right supported “law and order” and whatever that implied in terms of inequality, hierarchy and the privileges of the advantaged social strata, while the Left essentially fought for the overthrow of the “status quo” and ― to varying degrees ― for the equal distribution of political, economic and social power.
The main arena in which the struggle between Left and Right was taking place was the nation-state, even if the Left – particularly the Marxist (but also the libertarian) Left – was traditionally internationalist, until it adopted in practice the strategy of “socialism in one country” because of the objective conditions it faced, although in theory it remained internationalist. However, it is precisely this arena that is being eliminated by the current NWO, which is literally “pulling the rug” from under the traditional Left-Right divide. The consequences are the seismic changes that we see today across the whole political spectrum.
As regards the Left, an undeniable symptom of this phenomenon is the political bankruptcy of the traditional Left, both in the narrow sense of its electoral percentages, and, most importantly, in the broader sense of its traditional conception as the subversive mass movement that mainly attracted the popular strata, and not the privileged “Leftists” of the bourgeoisie who seek minor reforms through the degenerate “Left”, as is the case now. In other words, even though this “Left” continues to survive politically, this does not change the fact that it has been fully integrated into the NWO, as its demands are anything but subversive. On the other hand, the part of it which belongs to the communist Left theoretically makes subversive demands, which however remain theoretical, since they are not accompanied by a transitional programme and subversive political action. And this is true of any party or organization today that defines itself as Left, communist, anarchist, “Green”, etc, if it does not challenge – both in theory and in practice – the NWO itself, i.e. globalization (which can only be neoliberal within the system of a capitalist market economy) and the main international institutions implementing the neoliberal policies, such as the EU, preferring instead to wait for revolution before demanding withdrawal from such institutions and imposing economic self-reliance. That is why this entire “Left” can no longer attract the popular strata – who are the main victims of globalization – on a mass scale.
But seismic changes can also be seen on the Right, as evidenced by the fact that the traditional conservative parties of today have only survived thanks to the social strata which have clearly benefited from globalization and which therefore sustain them, while they have been losing support from the popular strata who were embourgeoised during the period of social democracy but are now getting poorer because of the mass unemployment and poverty that globalization brings! Thus, these increasingly conservative popular strata that are being crushed by globalization are now leaving the established Right but are not crossing over to the degenerate “Left” which has been fully integrated into the NWO either. Crucially, these popular strata are not joining the communist, or the pseudo-libertarian Left forces, who are supposedly fighting for self-management but who “fail” to see the strangulation of the popular strata through globalization, the EU etc going on right under their noses!
It is these popular strata which are currently shifting en masse towards nationalist parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP), to the point that even the most authoritative newspaper of the economic elite, the Financial Times, has emphasized that a wind of Euroscepticism, going as far as to raise the demand for withdrawal from the EU, is sweeping across Europe (15.10.2013). Contrary to the malicious propaganda of the transnational elite, which enjoys the support of the entire degenerate Left, this does not mean that the millions of Europeans who are turning against the EU and, indirectly, against globalization itself, have suddenly become Nazis, as though we were living in the 1930s. National socialism and social democracy itself are impossible today, as both flourished during the era of the nation-state which, under globalization is dead and buried. Nor does it mean that the fact that as much as 30 per cent of the new parliament, following next year’s Euro-elections, will comprise eurosceptics, have suddenly become racists. As the FT report stresses, the exptected massive influx of Eurosceptics in the next European Parliament, which even ardent European federalists now concede, will simply mean that the nationalist parties ‘are capitalising on the economic misery and high levels of unemployment that are plaguing the continent’. It is indeed characteristic that the more these parties get rid of racist or extremist right-wing elements in their politics, the more their percentages rise, as the meteoric rise of Le Pen in France showed lately.
At this crucial historical juncture that will determine whether we shall all become subservient to neoliberal globalization and the transnational elite, it is imperative that we create a Popular Front in each country which will include all the victims of globalization among the popular strata, regardless of their current political affiliations. In Greece, in particular, where the popular strata are facing economic disaster, what is needed urgently is not an “antifascist” Front, as proposed by the parties of the parliamentary junta, supported also by the degenerate “Left” (such as SYRIZA, whose leader A. Tsipras is a candidate for the post of the president of the European Commission!) which would unite aggressors and victims. An ‘antifascist’ front would simply disorient the masses and make them incapable of facing the real fascism being imposed on them by the political and economic elites, which constitute the transnational and local elites. Their criminal policies have already led to almost a third of the active population and over 60 percent of the young being unemployed, to Greek disposable income being almost halved and to a huge rise in poverty with thousands of people having committed suicide since the “crisis” began three years ago. Instead, what is needed is a Popular Front that could attract the vast majority of the people who would fight for immediate unilateral withdrawal from the EU – which is managed by the European part of the transnational elite – as well as for economic self-reliance, thus breaking with globalization.
This would allow also a genuine, new form of internationalism to be built from below, while creating the preconditions necessary for the people to decide, democratically, what kind of socio-economic system they would like in order to achieve an authentic form of popular power.
 Joshua Chaffin, “Europe: United by hostility”, Financial Times, 15/10/2013
This is an edited version of an article that was first published (in Greek) in the Athens daily Sunday’s Eleftherotypia, on 20/10/2013
The UK has rejected a call from an EU watchdog to probe how security agencies intercept metadata. Documents divulged by Edward Snowden revealed the covert practices of British spy body GCHQ in what has been described as “breach of fundamental rights.”
UK newspaper the Guardian reported that Britain sought to “disassociate itself” from a Council of Europe draft resolution urging an investigation into data gathering techniques. The European watchdog is currently holding a conference in the Serbian capital of Belgrade entitled ‘Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age’ which seeks to ensure intelligence gathering practices abide by the European Convention on Human Rights.
To this end the Council has produced a report entitled ‘Political Declaration and Resolutions’, outlining recommendations to safeguard against “abuse which may undermine or even destroy democracy.”
A clause (13(v)) in the report urges for an inquiry into the gathering of “vast amounts of electronic communications data on individuals by security agencies, the deliberate building of flaws and ‘backdoors’ in the security system of the internet of otherwise deliberately weakening encryption.”
The UK has moved to exempt itself from this particular part of the document, claiming it was “unable to agree to it.”
“The United Kingdom needs to place formally on record that while it has not blocked consensus on this text, the UK needs to disassociate itself from paragraph 13(v). The UK strongly supports the overall approach of the resolution including supporting a free and open internet that promotes freedom of expression,” said the declaration obtained by the Guardian.
The UK, however, accepted that data could be gathered by security agencies for “a legitimate aim” as long as it is in conjunction with existing human rights legislation and the rule of law.
Security leaks divulged by former CIA worker Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the GCHQ’s multiple intelligence gathering activities and its collusion with the NSA. As well as gathering troves of metadata and recording millions of telephone calls, the latest reports obtained by Der Spiegel found that the GCHQ was spying on data exchange companies through a spoof version of the social network site LinkedIn.
Using a method known as ‘Quantum insert’ the GCHQ created dummy versions of the website to target organizations and individuals and smuggle malware onto their computers.
“For LinkedIn the success rate [of rerouting a target to a malicious website] is looking to be greater than 50 percent,” said the leaked documents.
In addition, more information was revealed at the beginning of November as to the extent of the GCHQ’s cooperation with the NSA. Reports emerged that the GCHQ was feeding the NSA with the internal information intercepted from Google’s and Yahoo’s private networks.
So far the British government has done little to allay fears that UK spy agencies are acting outside the law in violation of human rights.
The Center for European Policy Studies published a paper accusing the UK along with other European countries of systematically violating human rights with their spy practices.
“We are witnessing a systematic breach of people’s fundamental rights,” wrote Sergio Carrera, a Spanish jurist who co-authored the paper with Francesco Ragazzi, a professor of international relations at Leiden University in the Netherlands. They called for action from the EU parliament to distinguish “democracies from police states.”
Members of the European Parliament (EP) have voted to suspend a security agreement with the United States, amid growing concerns over US spying activities against Europe.
“The EU should suspend its Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) agreement with the US in response to the US National Security Agency’s alleged tapping of EU citizens’ bank data held by the Belgian company SWIFT,” read a resolution passed by the EP on Wednesday by 280 votes to 254 and 30 abstentions.
While the resolution is non-binding, the EP stressed that it “will take account of the European Commission’s response to this demand when considering whether to give its consent to future international agreements.”
In 2010, the European Union and the United States agreed on the TFTP, which allowed the US limited access to the global financial database SWIFT as part of an anti-terrorism campaign.
The Wednesday vote came, however, after revelations by former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that the United States was using the access to spy on Europe instead of using it for counterterrorism purposes.
The European lawmakers also called on EU member states to launch an investigation into the reports on the US espionage involving SWIFT.
Revelations of massive spying operations by the United States have triggered condemnations across Europe and Latin America.
In a latest revelation, Snowden said Washington has spied on the phone conversations of German chancellor Angela Merkel. The disclosure prompted the German chancellor to call US President Barack Obama to seek reassurance that her phone calls were no more targeted by US spying.
On October 21, the French newspaper Le Monde disclosed massive surveillance by the US on French citizens and diplomats. The news angered French President Francois Hollande, who expressed “extreme reprobation” for the reported collection by the US of 70 million digital communications between December 10, 2012 and January 8, 2013.
12th October 2013 | European Coordination Committee for Palestine | Brussels, Belgium
In July 2013, the European Commission announced new guidelines that aim to prevent Israeli projects in illegal Israeli settlements from receiving research grant funding and prevent Israeli companies and institutions that operate inside illegal Israeli settlements from participating in financial instruments such as loans. The new guidelines were broadly welcomed by Palestinian and European civil society organisations.
But now Israel and its supporters are pressuring the EU to drop the new guidelines. There is a very real risk that the Commission will cave in to Israeli pressure and decide to continue the funding of, and support for, Israeli projects and organisations based in occupied Palestinian Territory. This would send a dangerous message that the EU lacks the political will to pressure Israel to end its war crimes and comply with international law.
Please use our simple e-tool to send a message to your members of the European Parliament and ask them to take action to support the new guidelines and make sure that the EU stops funding Israeli war crimes.
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Belgium has demanded explanations from the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) over allegations that it infiltrated major Belgian national telecom provider Belgacom.
The allegations against GCHQ were made after documents, leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, pointed to the British agency’s spying activities against Belgium.
According to reports in the German newspaper Der Spiegel, the Cheltenham-based intelligence agency has been accused of hacking the IT system of Belgacom by placing a virus in its network.
“Following the article in Der Spiegel, the government asked Belgian intelligence services to ask their British colleagues for more information,” said a source close to the Belgian government.
Prosecutors in Brussels are now investigating the case against the British spy agency.
A GCHQ spokeswoman declined to comment on the revelation.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament is also examining the activities of the GCHQ. European courts have launched a legal challenge against the agency’s surveillance programs over violating the privacy of millions of people throughout Britain and Europe.
However, London claims the EU does not have the authority to investigate these charges in European courts.
Snowden is currently in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.
Today, the European Parliament held a three-hour long debate on PRISM, Tempora and what the EU response should be. Many wanted TAFTA/TTIP put on hold; others didn’t. But one theme cropped up again and again: the need for strong data protection laws that would offer at least some legal protection against massive and unregulated transfer of Europeans’ personal data to the US.
As Techdirt readers may recall, the EU’s Data Protection Regulation was already contentious even before Ed Snowden revealed the scale of US and UK spying on EU citizens. The new focus on passing it soon only intensifies the battle going on there between those who want to introduce meaningful constraints on what can be done with EU data, and those who seem happier to listen to lobbyists and allow personal information to flow across the Atlantic largely unchecked. But it looks like the politicians have come up with a way to avoid public debate on the matter, as Monica Horten at Iptegrity.com reports:
Secret trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers are being proposed as a way to get around the impasse of 3000+ amendments on the Data Protection Regulation.
As Horten explains:
trilogues are held in secret, behind closed doors, and the only people allowed in are the rapporteur [the lead MEP representing the European Parliament] and his shadows, the Commissioner, the Presidency, and selected advisers from each institution. The trilogue discussions are not made public.
As well as being reprehensible — if anything needed to be conducted in public, this did — it may be against the EU’s own rules:
trilogues cannot start before the responsible committee has given a mandate. That’s what’s a little bit odd here. The mandate can only be given when the committee votes in October.
But the Brussels rumour mill is suggesting that there could be a move to begin trilogues on the Data Protection Regulation before October, without waiting for the committee mandate.
That might solve the problem of avoiding high-profile arguments over what should be in the Regulation, but it would also place anything that comes out of these secret negotiations on a questionable footing:
it would be a breach of Parliamentary process, and especially egregious given that this law deals with fundamental rights.
In any event, the rapporteur does not have to agree to trilogues. It is an option.
In other words, nobody really knows what will happen here. Call it the Snowden Effect: anything relating even indirectly to his case seems to become more complex and unpredictable….Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+
European Union lawmakers are hoping to pressure internet giants such as Facebook and Google, to boost personal security controls and limit the collection of data without users consent.
A German MEP has proposed modifications to the 1995 Data Protection Act, suggesting legislation that would limit corporations’ ability to use and sell data, such as browsing habits, especially when users are unaware of the practice.
“Users must be informed about what happens with their data,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green Party MEP. “And they must be able to consciously agree to data processing – or reject it.”
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding noted that she is “glad to see that the European Parliament rapporteurs are supporting the Commission’s aim to strengthen Europe’s data protection rules, which currently date back to 1995 – pre-Internet age.”
“A strong, clear and uniform legal framework will help unleashing the potential of the Digital Single Market and foster economic growth, innovation and job creation in Europe,” she added.
The report by the German MEP adds to a proposal for tougher data protection announced by the European Commission last January. The European Parliament, the European Commission and the bloc’s 27 nations say they will seek an agreement on the rules in the coming months.
Google and Facebook – who were among the first corporations to profit from user data – have been lobbying against any such moves in the European Union. The Internet goliaths have warned legislators that such laws may hamper innovation and harm business.
“We are concerned that some aspects of the report do not support a flourishing European digital single market and the reality of innovation on the Internet,” Erika Mann, head of EU policy for Facebook, said.
Meanwhile, the Industry Coalition for Data Protection, an ICT lobby group, stated that Albrecht had “missed an opportunity to reconcile effective privacy safeguards with rules protecting the conduct of business — both fundamental rights under the EU charter.”
The European Union frequently raises the issue of privacy controls, causing standoffs with major American corporations.
In September, in another standoff over privacy issues, Facebook was forced to remove its facial recognition software from the social network in Europe in order to comply with European data protection laws. This followed an investigation by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland.
The European Commission has withdrawn its request to review ACTA’s compatibility with the EU law in the European Court of Justice. The move virtually ensures the treaty will never be adopted in the Union.
The European Comission’s move was reported by MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats alliance.
“I welcome this news from the Commission today,” said S&D Euro MP David Martin, the author of the parliamentary report on ACTA, as cited by The Register. “The EU cannot be party to an agreement without European Parliament ratification. MEPs overwhelmingly rejected ACTA in July and I am pleased that the Commission has acknowledged this is the end of the road for ACTA in the EU thanks to the Parliament.”
The European Commission made the appeal to the court in July, after ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) had received a knockout blow from the European Parliament. At the time MEPs roundly rejected the treaty with 478 votes against, and only 39 in favour.
Even before that, in February this year the adoption of ACTA was suspended due to mass protests against it, with critics slamming the agreement for its breaches of human rights, that it would protect copyright at the expense of freedom of speech on the Internet.
Intended as a global treaty, ACTA started to be developed in 2007 as a means to target copyright and patent violations in a wide range of industries. ACTA has been signed by the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, South Korea and 22 EU member states.
Of all those countries, only Japan has ratified it so far. The treaty will come into force for the countries which ratified it when at least 5 more pass the relevant legislation.
The European Parliament has rejected ACTA, a controversial trade agreement, which was widely criticized over its likely assault on internet freedoms. Supporters of the treaty suggested postponing the crucial voting at the Parliament plenary on Wednesday, but members of the parliament decided not to delay the decision any further. MEPs voted overwhelmingly against ACTA, with 478 votes against and only 39 in favor of it. There were 146 abstentions.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was dealt a major blow on April 12 when MEP David Martin, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the agreement and member of the Committee responsible for delivering the recommendation [doc] to European Parliament to adopt or reject the agreement, announced that he would be recommending a “no” vote. While the prospects of the European Parliament ratifying the agreement seems to have fortunately lessened, it does not mean that it’s a fait accompli that the European Parliament will reject ACTA. As we’ve noted before, ACTA is a plurilateral agreement designed to broaden and extend existing intellectual property enforcement laws to the Internet. It was negotiated in secret by a handful of countries, in a process that intentionally bypassed the checks and balances of existing international IP norm-setting bodies without any meaningful input from national parliaments, policymakers, or their citizens. In our second post on the ACTA State of Play, we’ll look at what’s happening in Europe and why we should all be keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Brussels. (For those interested in US developments, please see our previous post here).
While the EU and 22 of its 27 member states signed ACTA in January, the European Parliament must vote to adopt it for it to become part of European Union law. A complex process is underway involving five European Parliamentary committees. The first step involves four committees: the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), and the Development Committee (DEVE). Each must each review ACTA according to their Committee’s particular subject matter expertise, and deliver an opinion to the fifth and lead Committee, the International Trade Committee (INTA).
The INTA Committee plays the key role of recommending ACTA’s adoption or rejection to European Parliament. While INTA’s opinion is highly influential, it is not binding. The final step in the ratification process is a plenary vote of the Members of European Parliament. MEPs must decide whether to adopt or reject ACTA in its entirety; no amendments are allowed. The vote is currently scheduled for early July, but it may occur later. Here are two great infographics from the European Parliament and from French organizations La Quadrature du Net and Owni.eu which illustrate the whole process.
Apart from this process at the EU level, individual EU member states must decide whether or not to ratify ACTA. This is because the agreement requires countries to put in place broader criminal sanctions for those who infringe IP, and for those who aid and abet them. EU law is not harmonized in relation to criminal penalties for IP infringement. Criminal laws are within the exclusive legislative power of the individual EU member states and so they must ratify ACTA for those provisions to be given effect. Five member states have now suspended ratification of ACTA (Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Bulgaria) and Germany has said that it will wait to see how the European Parliament votes before deciding to ratify.
There are many moving pieces in this puzzle and they each exert different levels of influence on the European Parliament’s vote. The European Commission referred ACTA to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe, on February 22 for an opinion on its compliance with EU law. The European Parliament’s INTA Committee, at the instigation of MEP David Martin, the current Rapporteur of ACTA within the European Parliament, considered but rejected its own referral of ACTA to the European Court of Justice in March. If this had gone ahead, it would have delayed the European Parliament’s plenary vote beyond July. The European Data Protection Supervisor issued an opinion [pdf] on the European Parliament’s proposed accession to ACTA on April 24 that obliquely criticized ACTA by noting that it permits measures for indiscriminate monitoring of communications that would be disproportionate for small scale infringements. Specifically, it includes voluntary cooperative enforcement measures that would permit ISPs to process personal data beyond what is permitted under EU law, and lacks the necessary limitations and safeguards to protect EU citizens’ personal data under EU law.
On April 12, the Rapporteur of ACTA within the European Parliament, MEP David Martin of the INTA Committee, announced that he would be recommending that the European Parliament vote no on ACTA, but suggested that the Commission could negotiate an alternative proposal. His recommendation concluded that:
Your rapporteur therefore recommends that the European Parliament declines to give consent to ACTA. In doing so, it is important to note that increased IP rights protection for European producers trading in the global marketplace is of high importance. Following the expected revision of relevant EU directives, your rapporteur hopes the European Commission will therefore come forward with new proposals for protecting IP.
While this should indeed be seen as a major blow to the prospects of a speedy ratification by the European Parliament and a rebuke to the European Commission which took the lead in negotiating ACTA for the EU, it does not mean that ACTA is dead in the EU.
Last week, several of the four committees involved in the first step of the process were scheduled to publish their opinions and deliver them to the INTA committee. These opinions are likely to be heavily influenced by the appointed Rapporteur for each committee. They are reportedly equally divided. Two of the four Rapporteurs oppose ACTA and two are strong supporters. EDRi has posted a draft opinion of the influential Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) rapporteur, MEP Marielle Gallo, who is a strong ACTA supporter. She had previously been proposing a fast vote on her draft opinion within JURI, but on April 26, she pushed instead for JURI to postpone its vote on the opinion. This seems like a further delaying tactic by ACTA supporters to slow down the process within the European Parliament until they’ve got the numbers for a yes vote while the fierce lobbying campaign continues apace in Brussels.
Everything comes down to how MEPs vote in the Parliamentary plenary vote. MEPs in European Parliament are members of political parties, and analysts in Europe are now trying to tabulate how the political party groups will vote on ACTA. As Joe McNamee, the Brussels-based Advocacy Co-ordinator for European Digital Rights noted in an insightful piece last week, the numbers look closer than you might think: 52.5% of the Parliament opposed to ACTA, to 47.5% in favor, if you extrapolate from the views of the Rapporteurs of the four committees involved in the first ratification step:
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.
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.
The future of ACTA as an international agreement will be decided in Europe. While recent media reports have led many people to conclude that ACTA is dead, this is unfortunately not true. Worse, it’s quite a dangerous misconception to have rebounding through the zeitgeist at a time when we need every possible vote in the European Parliament for ACTA to be rejected in July. Citizens in Europe and elsewhere must now clearly and loudly voice our concerns about this agreement to our elected representatives to counter-balance the content industry lobbyists that are hard at work in Brussels shoring-up support for ACTA. Now is the time to make your views heard. If you’re in the EU, contact your MEPs and urge them to vote no on ACTA.
More information on how to have your views heard is at the following resources:
EDRI’s ACTA campaign page
La Quadrature du Net’s ACTA campaign page
GAZA — The international campaign for freeing kidnapped Palestinian MPs informed the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament about the deterioration of the health of detained MP Ahmad Ali Hajj who has been on hunger strike for 15 days.
The campaign called, in letters to both Mr. Martin Stchaulz President of the European Parliament and Mr. Anders Johnson Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, to exert international parliamentary pressure on the occupation to release the MP Ali Al-Hajj, warning that his health is worsening by the day.
Hajj (74 years) is at risk of death at any moment because of his serious health condition. He has already lost 10 kg as a result of his hunger strike to protest administrative detention without charge or trial, in addition to losing 70% of his ability to hear and other ailments, the campaign added.
27 Palestinian MPs are still detained in the occupation jails in violation of the international law and their parliamentary immunity, the campaign said, pointing to the occupation’s arbitrary measures against the elected representatives, especially administrative detention for years on end. The campaign stated that the international silence toward this blatant violation of human rights gives the occupation a green light to commit more crimes towards people’s representatives.