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European Parliament does not refer ACTA to Court of Justice, Final Vote Set in June

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, March 28 2012

Yesterday, the European Parliament's International Trade Committee (INTA) voted against the referral of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court in matters of European Union law.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, already indicated it would refer the agreement to the Court a month ago, in order to assess whether ACTA is incompatible with the European Union’s fundamental rights. The commission's referral won't delay the parliament, the EU's legislative body, from voting to ratify the treaty.

Daniel Caspery, European People’s Party group coordinator, explained that if the Parliament had referred ACTA to the ECJ, then a vote on the treaty couldn't have happened until the court’s decision. A decision from ECJ on the treaty could take from 1 to 2 years.

"We also want to keep the Parliament more flexible in the coming months when it will hold its political discussion and assess whether ACTA is the right tool to solve the problems it was created to solve,  without creating new ones. If Parliament refers ACTA to the court, then it can no longer vote on it," Caspery said, as reported in the European Parliament’s press release.

“We will continue to prepare our dossier and as soon as it is ready, we will go to the court. It’s our intention, given the nature of the widespread concerns that were raised not only amongst the members of the European Parliament, but also amongst the general public. We are trying to clarify these concerns, we consider that an institutional obligation,” said John Clancy, spokesperson for Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, in a press briefing held earlier today.

The vote in Parliament will be decisive, in any case.

“A positive vote takes ACTA into force on behalf of the Union, but a negative consent vote means that ACTA is over as a dossier in front of the parliament and it will not come into force,” Clancy added, when questioned on the matter.

According to today's EP press release on the matter, MEP Martin will present his final recommendation on the vote to the European Parliament next April 26th.

The final vote in the parliamentary trade committee is scheduled at the end of May, while the final vote is expected in a June plenary. The parliament can only ratify the treaty or reject it.

The debate on ACTA in the European Parliament started at the end of February; a public workshop open to civil society organizations was held on March 1.