Thursday, July 05, 2012

Europe rejects ACTA

Last month, the European Parliament's International Trade Committee took a hard look at the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and did not like what it saw. Last night, the European Parliament followed the committee's lead, and resoundingly rejected the treaty, by 478 votes to 39:

The defeat brings to an end years of secret international negotiations, during which opponents of the treaty had complained that it was not being given sufficient public examination to determine whether its proposals were excessive or reasonable.

When it finally surfaced and became the topic of European Parliament discussion, opponents complained that it could, if interpreted strictly, lead to censorship and loss of privacy online.

Fears that the treaty would limit internet freedom had mobilised broad opposition across Europe, leading to demonstrations in a number of cities in the spring.

This means ACTA is basically dead in Europe. While the unelected European Commission is talking about reviving it, its highly unlikely they'll win a vote the second time round (and if they push it, they may find the European Parliament cuts off their sock budget).

Meanwhile, wouldn't it be nice if our parliament had these sorts of powers over foreign policy? While we're rightly proud of our democracy, on foreign policy we're resolutely stuck back in the age of absolute monarchy: the king Prime Minister decides, with no democratic input or oversight. As a democratic country, we can and should do better than that.