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French MEP quits and slams ACTA process as 'a charade'

The controversial anti-counterfeiting agreement has caused concerns that it could limit online freedom.

A FRENCH MEP has quit the process of scrutinising the controversial anti-counterfeiting agreement known as ACTA in the European Parliament and called the passage of the agreement ‘a charade’.

Socialist MEP Kader Arif has slammed the signing of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) by European Union member states – including Ireland and the EU itself – in Tokyo this week saying the entire process of the treaty was “a charade” in which he would no longer participate.

The controversial treaty, which has drawn protests in Poland and criticism from the music industry, is aimed at harmonising international standards on protecting the intellectual property rights of goods such as clothes, pharmaceuticals and other physical goods.

But the provision in the legislation that similar rights be afforded to moves and music distributed online has led to fears from those that oppose it that it will give countries the authority to block content on the internet.

Arif had been assigned as the rapporteur which special responsibility for the treaty from the EU’s International Trade Committee which is scrutinising the agreement before the European Parliament votes on it in June.

“I want to denounce as the greatest of all the process that led to the signing of this agreement: no association of civil society, lack of transparency from the beginning of negotiations, successive postponements of the signing of the text without any explanation being given, setting aside the claims of the European Parliament [despite those views being] expressed in several resolutions of our Assembly,” Arif said in a strongly-worded statement on his website.

He said he had faced “unprecedented manoeuvres” to fast track the legislation as soon as possible which had deprived the parliament and the people who vote for it the opportunity to scrutinise the treaty.

“This agreement may be major impact on the lives of our citizens, and yet everything is done for the European Parliament has no say. So today, in submitting this report in my charge, I would send a strong signal and alert the public about this unacceptable situation.

I will not participate in this charade.

The European Commission has played down concerns over internet freedom and has insisted that many of the hardline clauses have been removed from ACTA in private negotiations.

The Commission has said that in its present form the introduction of ACTA will not require changes to EU law.

The Irish government has also indicated that it is not expected that the enactment of ACTA will require any change in the country’s laws as the provisions of the deal are already accounted for in current legislation.

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