August 7, 2011

The Trade Committee operates like Navy Seals

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The European Parliament Trade Committee operates as secretive as Navy Seals. In the last year, the Committee commissioned a study and requested a Legal Service opinion on ACTA. While these were official decisions the Committee made, there is no record on this at all. The Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) seems to make a distinction between public minutes and non public coordinators’ notes. The Register maintains everything is published. See our letter to the Parliament’s Register.

It may seem silly to compare the work of a parliamentary committee to Navy Seals operations. Of course, it is silly. The EU foreign intellectual property policy is much more deadly.

Context: European Parliament denies access to EU negotiators’ notes and Trade Committee not interested in fundamental rights

Our letter to the European Parliament Register:

Dear Register,

I kindly thank you for your informative, elaborate and timely reply. Unfortunately, not all issues are resolved.

= 1

You wrote: “The right to submit a confirmatory application only applies in the event of a total or partial refusal. We did not mention the possibility of a confirmatory application because we did not send you a formal refusal. We sent you the link where to find certain documents requested or we informed you that other documents did not exist.”

In point 6, I requested “The negotiators’ notes the Commission added in the course of the ACTA negotiations.” You do not deny the existence of these notes, nor did you provide access. That counts as a refusal.

These notes do exist. They are important for the interpretation of ACTA. In March 2011, the Commission wrote: “The EU has not decided yet whether it will publish its negotiators’ notes.” This shows the EU negotiators notes are not covered by the confidentiality agreement. It is possible to publish them.

= 2

The JURI meeting of 2 dec 2010. In the minutes we find:

“A letter would be sent to AFCO on the interpretation of the Rules of Procedure in relation to the procedural aspects of requesting an opinion from the Court of Justice on the conformity with the Treaties of envisaged agreements with third countries.”

On the act-on-acta website we find:

“As you can read from the note of the coordinators: “The Greens/EFA group has asked JURI to look into study the possibility of Parliament’s seeking the opinion of the Court of Justice on the compatibility of the proposed ACTA agreement with the Treaties on the following grounds: … (to summarise the question – the compatibility of ACTA with the Treaties)… The Chair proposes to ask for the opinion of the Legal Service, in particular, on the procedural aspects of the matter”. ”

Do some Committees make a distinction between public Committee minutes and non public coordinators’ notes? Do some Committees play semantical games?

This “note of the coordinators” functions as minutes (and seemingly there are copies distributed (“as you can read”)). The document exists, the Register did not provide access. Possibly many of such notes functioning as minutes do exist.

= 3

This last year, the INTA committee commissioned a study and requested the Legal Service an opinion, both on ACTA. Not just the Chairman, the Committee did: “In this context, the Committee on International Trade would appreciate to know your opinion on the following matters”.

I downloaded the minutes of the Trade Committee meetings of last year, and ran a search program. The words, related to study and request:

“ACTA, Counterfeiting, Court, Pennera, COM(2011)380, 2011/0167(NLE), Directive 2004/48/EC, Vienna, study, IGIR, Globalisation, Maastricht, briefing, LSE Enterprise , to commission, EP/EXPO/B/INTA/ FWC /2009 -01/ Lot7/12”

did not return any hits.

The words: “request, Agreement, external, assess” resulted in hits, but not on ACTA.

There is no trail at all for the decisions commissioning a study nor for requesting an opinion. There are official Committee decisions not recorded anywhere. The INTA Committee operates in stealth mode. I can only assume secret minutes (or notes) do exist. And otherwise, stealth mode legislation does not seem proper conduct.

= 4

On 29/07/11 I filed a confirmatory application for all documents I did not receive.

Yours sincerely,

Ante Wessels