Today at the Chancellery of the Polish Prime Minister a meeting between Polish NGOs, businesses and government officials (Ministry of Culture and National Heritage; Ministry of Economy; Ministry of Justice) has been held, under the aegis of the newly established Ministry of Administration and Digitalization (unfortunately, Minister Michał Boni was not present). Main topic was ACTA – it was obviously nicely aligned with the anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA blackout that was in fact still going on at 11AM CET when the meeting started.
It was tense, it turned out that in just a week, on Jan 26, ACTA will be signed by the European Union; after that the treaty has to be ratified, first by the European Parliament, then by member states. In Poland, the decision about the upcoming ACTA signing has been made on Nov 25, 2011 in a so-called “circulatory mode”, i.e. not on an actuall government meeting. Documents have been sent to all the Ministries, and when none voiced comments nor concerns (which would prompt a meeting), it was deemed accepted.
Interesting part is that the request for just such a mode of acceptance went out on the last day of the previous cabinet, and it was signed in the first days of the new cabinet. The M inistry of Culture of course holds that it was a coincidence and was caused by pure date collision, waiting for the Polish translation of the treaty, etc.
Such a mode of making this decision – non-transparent, behind closed doors, without any way of faciliating a discussion on the merits – is in stark contrast with what the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk promised during one of the high-profile meetings with “the Internauts” in May 2011, namely that no further steps will be undertaken as long as a full and open discussion about the treaty is conducted.
Not the least surprised with such revelations on the advanced status of ACTA adoption was the representative of our host, the Ministry of Administration and Digitalization. We might hear much more interesting facts on the matter during the enxt few days – the ministry promised to publish information pertaining to the negotiations, expert opinions on the legality of ACTA and how, if at all, would it change local laws, and other materials.
Representative of the Ministry of Culture, which faciliated ACTA negotiation/acceptance process in the name of the Polish Government, was only able to report the history of the acceptance process and sketch the next needed steps. All questions, doubts and arguments against ACTA were met with standard phrases (“The priority for this Government is the effective enforcement of IP laws”), and when asked about the official stance of the Ministry on ACTA he basically quoted, word-by-word, the official position of the European Commission (argued against many times through the last few months). For example, we never received an answer to the simple question if the Ministry is able to name a single Polish company that will benefit from ACTA.
Hence, we await the promised materials and some merits-based arguments and answers to our questions.
Signing of ACTA by EU next week is not the end of the line! It’s actually a beginning of the adoption process. It still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament, and then individually by member states.
The Europarliament ratification is extremely important here, as it’s an “all or nothing” vote. ACTA either passes and is ratified, or is rejected in full. This is where we need to focus our actions.
Ratification by member states only concerns parts of the treaty (albeit parts important for free speech on the Internet); if ACTA sails through the Europarliament, member states will only be able to cripple ACTA, not reject it entirely. There is much work ahead of us!
Europarliament ratification vote date is still unknown.
Minister Boni will ask the Prime Minister to hold the signing of ACTA until questions that arised on the meeting are cleared
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