November 1, 2011

European Parliament releases “nonexistent” coordinators’ minutes on ACTA

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The European Parliament’s register released the International Trade (INTA) committee’s coordinators’ minutes on ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). Prior to the release, the Parliament’s services denied the existence of these minutes four times. Only after the FFII provided proof that the documents do exist, the Parliament released them. The minutes document illegal decisions.

On 21 June 2011, the coordinators of the INTA committee decided to ask the Parliament’s legal service an opinion on ACTA. (pdf) This decision was illegal for two reasons. First, the ACTA text had already been published, the discussion should have taken place in public. Second, coordinators can prepare decisions, not take them.

The INTA committee’s Chairman, Mr Moreira, sent a letter to the legal service. In the letter, he left out a question on safeguards against disproportional criminalisation. While known in Parliament, no Member took action to solve this.

On 8 July, the FFII requested both the Chairman’s letter and the coordinators’ minutes. The Parliament’s services denied the existence of the minutes four times.

On Friday 23 September, Member of Parliament Carl Schlyter (Greens / EFA) wrote a letter to the Chairman of the INTA committee about the missing question. He referred to the coordinators’ minutes and mentioned the file name. The INTA Chairman sent a second letter to the legal service. (pdf)

On 5 October, in an email to the INTA committee’s secretariat, the FFII referred to MEP Schlyter’s letter, and argued that since the ACTA text had already been published, the discussion should have taken place in public. The FFII also stated that EU law does not provide a possibility to deny or obfuscate the existence of documents. The FFII urged the secretariats to record all existing documents in one of the EP document management systems, so that the register can provide correct information from the start.

The FFII added: “The conclusion seems justified that the European Parliament violated the Rules of Procedure, the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

On 25 October, the register released the minutes.

The legal service’s opinion on ACTA is ready, but confidential. The confidentiality seems a violation of the European Court of Justice case law, especially the Turco case.

The FFII requested the legal service’s opinion on ACTA. A better solution may be to withdraw the opinion, since it is based on an illegal decision. The INTA committee can then ask, after a public discussion, for a public legal service’s opinion on ACTA. 500 Million Europeans, and billions abroad, are entitled to full transparency.