September 21, 2009

Secret criminal measures in EU – South Korea trade agreement

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Brussels, 21 September 2009 — The EU and South Korea plan to initial a Free Trade Agreement in October. The trade agreement includes civil, border and criminal measures on the enforcement of copyright, trade mark rights, patents and other exclusive rights. The text of the agreement is secret.

In the Netherlands, Vrijschrift.org last week asked the parliamentary Commission on Subsidiarity to investigate the EU – South Korea trade agreement. In 2006, this commission gained fame with its negative advice on the EU Criminal measures intellectual property directive proposal (IPRED2). Subsequently, both chambers of Dutch parliament agreed with the advice unanimously, and sent a letter to then EU Commissioner Frattini, with translated copies to the other national parliaments of the EU. IPRED 2 is now permanently stuck in the EU Council.

FFII analyst Ante Wessels comments: “Decisions on substantive and formal criminal law have always been deemed especially sensitive for the ability of a constitutional state to democratically shape itself. Hence the opposition against EU criminal law. It is rather shocking that criminal measures are now secretly put in trade agreements. And the secretiveness of the EU – South Korea trade agreement makes it impossible to assess its effects on access to the Internet, software and medicine, too.”

The member states of the EU have vetoes on criminal measures. The articles relating to trade in services fall within the shared competence of the Community and its member states. The agreement has to be concluded jointly by the Community and the member states.

Ante Wessels adds: “The governments keep the national parliaments uninformed. To gain influence, parliaments have to first force transparency. They can do so by making parliamentary scrutiny reservations. Then the government can’t go ahead before the parliament is informed and makes a decision.”

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The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in over fifty countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.