MEP quits in disgust at ACTA ‘charade’

27 Jan 2012

Kader Arif, the politician and the EU Parliament's lead investigator into ACTA, who resigned in disgust at the treaty

Kader Arif, a leading French MEP who had the role of rapporteur – ie, leading investigator – into the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – has resigned in protest and denounced the treaty as a charade.

ACTA was signed yesterday by representatives of the EU as well as 22 other European nations, including Ireland and Poland. It will be voted in by the European Parliament after the EU International Trade Committee (INTA) examines it.

Arif was appointed rapporteur with responsibility for investigating the treaty’s validity. However, in a statement issued yesterday, he has warned that right wings of the EU Parliament tried to rush the treaty through before the public could be alerted. He also warned that the treaty is problemetic and could impact on civil liberties in the way it makes internet providers (ISPs) liable.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), ostensibly the agreement deals primarily with counterfeit physical goods, such as medicine. However, it will in actual fact have broader scope and in a similar fashion to SOPA will deal with new tools targeting “internet distribution and information technology.”

Arif denounced ACTA as a charade and said he would no longer participate in the process.

“I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.

“As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens’ legitimate demands.

“Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.

“This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade,” Arif said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years