21 March 2010

To: EC's Directorate General for Trade

Without much fanfare, the European Commission has arranged an "ACTA Stakeholders’ Consultation Meeting". Of course, the big problem is that it's in Brussels, and few of us can afford to take a day off work to attend - unless we are professional lobbyists, of course, who get *paid* huge sums to attend.

However, it is still possible to make some comments on ACTA, since

Those unable to participate in the meeting and/or wishing to present their positions in writing may send their comments to TRADE-ACTA-MEETING@ec.europa.eu , no later than 22 March 2010.

So if you have a few minutes to spare this afternoon, I urge you to drop the EC's Directorate General for Trade a short note to let them know what you think. Here's mine:

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend the ACTA Stakeholders’ Consultation Meeting; but I shouldn't need to. If the Internet has taught us anything, it is that such processes can – and should – be opened up to all using this wonderful democratising tool. By resorting to such traditional meetings, the European Commission makes it difficult for ordinary people with jobs (to say nothing of those who are unemployed) from attending and thus voicing their opinions. Instead, it will be the usual well-funded lobbyists who turn up and pack the meeting, crowding out the few who represent the hundreds of millions of ordinary EU citizens.

So my comment really comes down to this: we need full transparency for the ACTA negotiations, with all of the drafts released as and when they are modified, along with all other related documents, so that all of us can participate in this crucially important process. This is not some ancillary facet that can be tacked later, but is absolutely central. If other partners won't agree to transparency, then the EU should simply refuse to negotiate further, since there is no reason why such drafts should not be open for all to discuss – unless, of course, there is something in them that certain participants want hidden until the negotiations have been concluded and can be presented as a fait accompli.

ACTA negotiations without transparency are simply a continuation of the bad old days of closed-door meetings of cosy insider groups to the detriment of ordinary citizens. If the EU is truly to represent the citizens of Europe, it must definitively turn its back on that unrepresentative system, and place openness and transparency at the heart of everything it does.

If it does not, voters' disenchantment with politics will grow, and the already-gaping chasm between the politicians and the people will widen, until our nominal representatives find themselves increasingly alienated from the electorate. That would have dire consequences not just for politicians, but for European democracy itself.

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Anonymous said...

Mail sent. I must say that this entire ACTA thing reminds me of the software patent legislation that the European Parliament turned down a few years back.

At the time I was working for the European institutions and I followed the debate live in Strasbourg. What I recall more vividly is that the speaker - in explaining why the parliament turned down the legislation - did *not* mention the content of the proposal at all. He simply said that the parliament was refusing to pass a legislation that was not discussed openly but was presented "as is" by the Commission for ratification.

Surprisingly, at the time the Commission reiterated his "secretive" attitude and the legislation was dunked for good [at least in that form].

Let's hope it will happen the same this time around. :(

glyn moody said...

Thanks for that.

Yes, I agree, the European Parliament's hurt pride may be our best hope...