ACTA agreement referred to Foreign Affairs Committee
The government has referred the ACTA agreement to parliament's European and Foreign Affairs Committee to flag any issues it might have, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said this afternoon.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Fenech reiterated comments made at a Finance Ministry statement yesterday (see link below) that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement does not violate people's rights or change the way individuals use the internet. However, he stressed, it was in the interest of all countries to better protect intellectual rights.
He said the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEASAC) had been notified about the agreement before its signing, in July, and none of its members, including the Labour Party, objected.
Mr Fenech said the agreement was far from being a done deal in that it had still to be approved by the European Parliament and ratified by national parliaments, before being signed off by the EU Council of Ministers.
Also this afternoon, Michael Farrugia, the PL spokesman on IT, said that ACTA went beyond the EU's various intellectual property directives and threatened fundamental liberties including the right to privacy and freedom of expression.
He said many aspects of the agreement were of concern. For example, he said, the agreement placed generic and counterfeit medicine in the same category.
He said internet service providers should not be responsible for the data they hosted or transferred. Most of the things mentioned in ACTA were already protected by existing legislation, leading one to wonder why the new agreement was needed.
Dr Farrugia said he was concerned by the government's response, which was a cut and paste copy of the EU's commission position. He said that MEUSAC had not been presented with the final version of the agreement.
The PLs position, he said, was the same as its MEPs, that the agreement needed to be clarified and amended.
Earlier today, Nationalist MEPs Simon Busuttil and David Casa said today that the position of Labour MEPs on ACTA was clearly the result of a knee jerk reaction to public opinion whilst being ostensibly oblivious to the facts at hand.
In a statement, they said that in November 2010 two resolutions were put to a vote; the one supported by PL MEPs did not garner sufficient backing and was rejected, while a more balanced version outlining the same concerns was adopted by the EP during that plenary.
"However, it is clear that there are widespread misconceptions circulating the internet on this agreement. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is directed at large-scale criminals and not private internet users. In addition, we definitely agree that international cooperation against counterfeiting and piracy should be stepped up because this will enhance European competitiveness and innovation and will protect jobs in Malta, in this growing sector." they said.
The Nationalist MEPs reiterated that the European Commission has given repeated, detailed and written assurances that individual internet users will not be restricted in any way.
Moreover, the Legal Services of the European Parliament have also concluded that ACTA do not breach fundamental freedoms.
"When the final vote on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement ACT is voted upon in the European Parliament this June, we will only support it if we are assured that it does not create undue restrictions for internet users." they said.
"Once again, true to style, Labour shoots from the hip. This is why they always get it wrong." they concluded.
In a reaction, the Labour Party said that Simon Busuttil 'and his sidekick' David Casa had confirmed they voted against an anti-ACTA resolution tabled by Socialists, Liberals and Greens.
'True to their conservative stand, they voted with the right wing bloc in favour of an ACTA-friendly version' the Pl said.
Ministry's explanation on ACTA -