Don't Let the European Parliament Freeze ACTA!

Paris, March 13th, 2012 – The European Parliament may be about to side with the Commission in its strategy to stall the ACTA debate, and postpone by one year or two the vote that could kill it once and for all. It is urgent that citizens contact Members of the Parliament to urge them to continue working towards a clear and strong political position, leading to the unavoidable rejection of ACTA, rather than allow these technocratic manœuvres.

The new rapporteur of ACTA in the EU Parliament, British MEP David Martin, announced that he is working towards a EU Parliament referral of ACTA to the EU Court of Justice. By sending such a referral, the Parliament would tie its own hands and second the recent Commission strategy to stall the ACTA debate.

As Members of the International Trade (INTA) committee – chaired by Vital Moreira, openly pro-ACTA and siding with Commissioner De Gucht – will soon take a decision on whether or not to refer to the ECJ, citizens must urgently step in.

“The Parliament's referral to the EU Court of Justice makes no sense, it is a cheap political trick that must be opposed. If the INTA committee has its way, the whole ACTA debate will be frozen and the Parliament won't be able to take a firm position, much less vote for the rejection of the agreement, before the Court gives its decision in one year or two. Members of the Parliament must live up to their responsibility to protect EU citizens and listen to their uproar against ACTA. What this means is refusing any Parliamentarian referral to the ECJ and continuing their work towards a clear and strong rejection of ACTA.”, said Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen organisation La Quadrature du Net.

An ECJ referral by the Parliament is useless at best and most likely harmful, for the following reasons:

  • There is only one question that the Parliament can ask to the ECJ, the very same one that the Commission will ask in its own referral, as defined by the treaties. It is narrow in scope, and legalistic in nature. It will fail to address ACTA's numerous political problems1. The Parliament cannot simply ask any question it wants.
  • The argument has been put forward that the Parliament could detail the Commission's question with its own referral. Once again this doesn't resist scrutiny, as the Parliament will have an opportunity to send its written observations to the Court even with the Commission's referral (rules of procedure 107.1 of the ECJ2).
  • If the Parliament decides to send its own referral, the consent vote will be postponed3, and it will be easy for the minority of pro-ACTA MEPs to claim that no significant work should be undertaken on ACTA before the ECJ has answered.

La Quadrature du Net calls citizens to urge Members of the Parliament to reject such a lowly trick and to distance itself from the Commission by working towards a unequivocal rejection of ACTA.

A phone campaigning tool is available for that purpose, to help you call Members of the Parliament, free of charge.

  • 1. See article 218.11 TFEU: “A Member State, the European Parliament, the Council or the Commission may obtain the opinion of the Court of Justice as to whether an agreement envisaged is compatible with the Treaties. Where the opinion of the Court is adverse, the agreement envisaged may not enter into force unless it is amended or the Treaties are revised.” Source:
  • 2.
  • 3. See rule 90(6) of the EU Parliament rules of procedure:
    Before the vote on the consent is taken, the committee responsible, a political group or at least one-tenth of the Members may propose that Parliament seek an opinion from the Court of Justice on the compatibility of an international agreement with the Treaties. If Parliament approves such a proposal, the vote on the consent shall be postponed until the Court has delivered its opinion