Brussels, 27 July 2010 -- According to the EU Ombudsman, citizens have a clear interest in being informed about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Despite this, he concludes for formal reasons that there was no maladministration by the Council of the European Union when it denied access to the ACTA documents. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) had filed a complaint with the Ombudsman concerning the Council's refusal to grant access to ACTA documents.
The Ombudsman "agrees that the conclusion of the ACTA may indeed make it necessary for the EU to propose and enact legislation. In that case, the ACTA would constitute the sole or the major consideration underpinning that legislation, and citizens would have a clear interest in being informed about the ACTA."
While citizens have a clear interest in being informed about ACTA, they do not get access to the ACTA documents. The Ombudsman observes that, although ACTA "could have far-reaching legislative consequences for the EU, this does not mean that the procedure for concluding the ACTA is the same as a legislative procedure, and that the rules governing the latter (including those with regard to public access to documents as set out in the Turco case) apply by analogy to the former."
FFII analyst Ante Wessels comments: "This is a loophole, it is possible to force legislation upon democracies while the public can not scrutinize all documents. The EU legislation on access to documents needs to be repaired. In the meantime, parliaments should not accept the usage of this loophole. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties stipulates that the history of a treaty plays a role in the interpretation of that treaty. Without full disclosure, parliaments will have to decide on a proposal with unknown aspects, a dark horse."
Behind closed doors, the European Union, United States, Japan and other trade partners are negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. ACTA will contain new international norms for the enforcement of copyrights, trade mark rights, patents and other exclusive rights.
The FFII endorses the Washington Communique: International Experts Find that Pending Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Threatens Public Interests
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