European Court of Justice to Provide Opinion on ACTA
In late January, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), was signed by the EU and 22 Member States. Questions were raised as to whether the bill could restrict freedom of speech on the internet. A surge of demonstrations across the EU and intense debates in the European Parliament followed, with some member states coming out against the agreement. On 4th April, the European Commission took the step to formally request an opinion on ACTA from European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EU Commission has asked the ECJ to examine the conformity of ACTA with EU law, particularly with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Court could potentially review all aspects that could be affected by its ratification, including the freedoms of speech and information, data protection and intellectual property rights.
In the European Parliament, a number of committees, including International Trade (INTA), will present their recommendations on ACTA in the coming months. The European Parliament will take a final vote on the agreement at the June Plenary. EU Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, has however called on the European Parliament to await the opinion of the ECJ on the treaty, before taking its decision. Political and legal discussions as to whether the Parliament can vote on the substance of ACTA while it is under review by the court are underway, as there is no precedent on this issue. As it stands, members of the Liberal Democrats (ALDE), Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and Greens (Greens-EFA) are opposed to ACTA.
The Internet provides young people with the possibility to exercise their rights to the freedoms of speech and expression. In this line, the European Youth Forum is following the debates surrounding ACTA very closely.