If this doesn’t say something… You can still contact Members of the European Parliament to persuade them to vote against ACTA!
Kader Arif, EP rapporteur for ACTA:
”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.”
As I’ve blogged before, I’m kinda tired of writing about the eurozone debt crisis. The results of the once again ”crucial” European summit that starts today are fairly predictable: announcements of more, even radical, fiscal discipline and sanction mechanisms across the European Union (or the eurozone), a further integration of tax and labour market policies, and no hopes whatsoever for an expanded role of the ECB in the form of it acting as lender of last resort or as issuer of eurobonds. Everything that Germany wants, happens.
In other words: in order to please the financial markets, only one of the structural deficiencies of the eurozone is being addressed: the disparity in budgetary policies across member states. The other ones - the existence of separate bonds markets and the absence of a true central bank, which leads to Europe’s heightened exposure to the judgment of financial markets and credit rating agencies - are not addressed at all. All this because of Germany’s fear of inflation.
The European debt crisis is now starting to become a democratic crisis as well. This is happening on two levels. First, in order to please the financial markets, “reforms” and budget cuts are being imposed on southern European countries at huge social and economic costs without the population having any say in it. Elected politicians are removed not by elections or the people on the street, but replaced by so-called “technocrats” under pressure of the financial markets. Moreover, across the entire eurozone radically tightened fiscal discipline, which will have a huge bearing on social and economic policies, is being imposed without the population having any say in it; once again, to please the markets. The German, i.e. the conservative/(neo-) liberal policy solution for everything – fiscal discipline, budget cuts and market reforms - is imposed throughout the eurozone by Diktat.
Whether you like this particular economic policy package or not (I’m personally not against it), there’s no escaping the fact that the past months we’ve witnessed a huge shift in sovereignty from democracy to the market. Financial markets dictate what must be done; and it is reinforced by those policy-makers in charge who happen to walk in tune with those markets.
The second level at which democracy is under attack is in the transfer of powers from the national level to the European one. It is by now accepted that the only solution for the eurozone is a further federalization of fiscal, social and economic policies. The European Commission (EC) is likely the institution that will benefit the most from this. Yet, whether you are in favour of the European project or not, the EC is ultimately a technocratic institution; it is a super-regulator that issues “directives” and “regulations” to be imposed uniformly across member states without interference of national parliaments. The European Parliament (EP), the only European institution that is truly democratically legitimized (but only by a minority of voters), does not have the right of initiative; it is the barely legitimized EC that is the one policy ”motor” of the European Union. This situation will only be exacerbated by the current eurozone crisis.
In short, there’s a double crisis of democracy going on: one in the shift of decision-making power from the political sphere to the market, and a second in the transfer of powers from the national level to a barely legitimized European one. In between, the voice of the people is crushed. Particularly worrying is the talk, to be heard here and there, that “democracy” really is just one way to govern a country, that it was a nice experiment, but that it doesn’t really work in an age of globalized financial markets and much-needed technocratic European governance. Have we now really entered a 1930s-style “crisis of democracy”? Is the democratic principle itself being questioned?
To me, the need for a more unified Europe if the single currency is to be saved is clear. But the democratic deficit is getting painful. German solutions mean a half-hearted attempt to create a fully functioning economic zone, but an almost complete transfer of fiscal discretionary powers to an incompletely legitimized supra-European entity. Is that what we want? Do we have any say in that? In my view, the democratic level of the European Union is to be deepened if any of this is the result of current talks. This would mean a broadening of the powers of the EP to become a fully-fledged representative body with legislative powers, as well as finally some concerted effort on the part of European and national policy-makers to promote European democratic institutions amongst the populace. The ECB should also really be allowed to function as a central bank.
Otherwise, the result will be something we have now, but even more overbearing. A soft kind of technocratic regime, composed of an intricate byzantine web of committees, networks, councils and summits and a super-regulator, governed by one particular budgetary philosophy, all the while constricting national discretion to formulate policies, that is whipped from here to there by the financial markets. Even if this solution is, for now, accepted by those financial markets, I don’t think it will hold in the future. And there is no place for democracy in it either.
I sometimes complain about the intransparency when it comes to lobbying on a national level, in the Netherlands (like when a former Minister of Transport becomes head of the biggest airline company). But the European Commission (EC) is a whole other ball game. Apparently, here it’s normal too that industry lobbyists get appointed to positions regulating the industries they’re hailing from.
Check out the blog post from Boing Boing below. Luckily, there are Dutch D66 (liberal) and Swedish Pirate MEPs to call the EC out on this.
Maria Martin-Prat, who took a leave from her job at the European Commission to work as Deputy General Counsel and Director of Legal Policy and Regulatory Affairs for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI — thee international version of the RIAA, CRIA and BPI, though they’re all basically the same companies), has returned to the EC to run its copyright unit. While Martin-Prat was enjoying her holiday as a lobbyist for the industry she now regulates, she took a number of extremist copyright positions, including lobbying against the private copying exemption (part of European Fair Dealing), and arguing that it should be illegal to break the DRM on the media you buy, even if you don’t violate copyright in doing so.
Christian Engström, Pirate MEP, writes, “Welcome to the European Union, where the big business lobby organizations are calling most of the shots at the Commission, and where citizens are just seen as a nuisance to be ignored. I guess the only real news is that they don’t even bother to try to hide it any more.”
Two MEPs are openly questioning Martin-Prat’s appointment. Liberal Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake and Swedish Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström have written to the European Commission, asking, “Does the Commission not see any problems in recruiting top civil servants from special interest organisations, especially when being put in charge of dossiers directly related to their former employers? If not, why not?
“Does the Commission feel that such an appointment would help to build confidence with the European Parliament and the general public that the Commission can be trusted to handle copyright-related issues in a fair and balanced manner?”
De liberale fractie in het Europees Parlement rocks. Erg sterk op privacy-bescherming en burgerrechten. De ALDE heeft, bij monde van D66′er Sophie in ‘t Veld, vragen aan de Europese Commissie gesteld over het opvragen door het Amerikaanse ministerie van Justitie van de Twittergegevens – en waarschijnlijk ook Facebook- en andere gegevens – van onder meer de Nederlandse internetactivist Rop Gonggrijp. Dit vanwege zijn betrokkenheid bij het publiceren van de Collateral Murder-video, waarin te zien is hoe Amerikaanse Apache-piloten onschuldige burgers doodschieten. Zo iemand noemt de Telegraaf overigens een “linkse terreuractivist” en een “meesterhacker”.
De liberale fractie van het Europarlement vermoedt dat de Amerikaanse datavordering bij webbedrijven over onder meer Rop Gonggrijp illegaal is. De partij eist uitleg van Brussel en Washington.
De liberale fractie ALDE stelt vandaag vragen aan de Europese Commissie over de rechtmatigheid van het vorderen van privégegevens van Europese burgers door de Amerikaanse justitie. De partij eist een plenair debat over de kwestie en de EC moet dringend vragen stellen aan de Amerikaanse autoriteiten.
“De Commissie moet uitleggen of deze handelswijze in strijd is met de Europese regels voor databescherming en of de Amerikaanse autoriteiten de bevoegdheid hebben om de privacyrechten van EU-burgers terzijde te schuiven”, aldus Sophie In’t Veld (D66), Vice-President van de ALDE-fractie.
Aanleiding is het gerechtelijk bevel uit de VS aan in ieder geval Twitter en waarschijnlijk ook andere bedrijven om allerlei accountgegevens en communicatie op te hoesten van een vijftal personen betrokken bij Wikileaks.
Twitter kreeg het voor elkaar dat dit bevel in ieder geval openbaar gemaakt kon worden. Van de vijf wiens gegevens gevorderd zijn is er één inwoner van de EU: de Nederlandse hacker Rop Gonggrijp. Hij hielp in het voorjaar van 2010 mee met de Wikileaks-productie van de video Collateral Murder, van een Apache-helikopter die Irakese burgers neermaait.
Naar alle waarschijnlijkheid zal tegen het databevel beroep worden aangetekend. De Amerikaanse burgerrechtenbeweging EFF heeft zich al opgeworpen als advocaat voor Birgitta Jonsdottir, een IJslands parlementslid. Ook haar accountgegevens zijn gevorderd. Daarnaast gaat het om accounts van klokkenluider Bradley Manning, de Amerikaanse hacker Jacob Appelbaum en Wikileaks-leider Julian Assange.
As they already have in the Unites States and France, and is being considered in Spain, South Korea and the Netherlands. Our only hope is the European Parliament.
To the consternation of Internet companies and civil liberties groups, lawmakers in Britain are seeking to punish those who illegally copy music.
The British proposal is set to be taken up by the House of Commons on Monday. Under an amendment to the bill in the House of Lords this month, courts would be empowered to order Internet service providers to block access to Web sites that provide pirated movies, music and other media content.
Supporters of the amendment say it would finally give copyright holders the tools to tackle the piracy problem at the supply and demand levels, after more than a decade of largely futile efforts. But critics of the bill say it raises the threat of censorship on the Internet, and could undermine the development of Britain’s digital economy.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, which campaigns against restrictions on the Internet, said the bill contained unusually broad scope for abuse. Individuals or companies, he said, may try to use it to suppress any Web content they find objectionable, under the pretext of protecting their copyright.
The British government says a tougher approach on piracy could provide hundreds of millions of dollars for the “creative industries,” which account for more than 6 percent of British economic output. But critics say the enforcement proposals would be expensive to enforce and would generate little new revenue.
British libel laws, which put the burden of proof on the defendant, are already employed in this way by wealthy plaintiffs, critics say; rather than mount expensive defenses, bloggers and others accused of libel often back down and withdraw their allegations.
Lilian Edwards, a professor of Internet law at the University of Sheffield, wrote on her blog that the measure could be employed by media companies to try to block online video services like YouTube, which sometimes contain clips of copyrighted material.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI, a trade group for British recording companies, said the proposal to block Web sites was not aimed at the likes of YouTube but at sites like the Pirate Bay, whose founders were convicted of criminal copyright violations by a court in Sweden last year.
“We are not talking about threats to freedom of expression,” he said. “We are talking about massive taking of people’s creative works.”
Het is vandaag een mooie dag in opstaan van Europa tegen de Verenigde Staten. En voor het beschermen van burgerrechten tegen oprukkende staatsmacht. Na het publiekmaken door het Britse Court of Appeals van Amerikaanse martelingspraktijken, nu de beslissing van het Europees Parlement om het akkoord tussen de Europese Unie en de V.S. over het afdragen van bankgegevens van Europeanen af te keuren. Voor het eerst dat het Parlement haar nieuwe macht om beslissingen van de lidstaten af te keuren gebruikt… het was immers een behoorlijke naaiactie van de EU-ministers van Justitie om één dag voordat het Verdrag van Lissabon in werking trad, nog even dit akkoord er doorheen te jassen. En een groot succes voor de Nederlandse Europarlementariërs Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (VVD), wiens motie is aangenomen, en Sophie in ‘t Veld (D66), die hier al jaren mee bezig is.
Straatsburg, 11 febr. Het Europees Parlement heeft vanmiddag het akkoord afgekeurd tussen de Verenigde Staten en de Europese Unie over de overdracht van bankgegevens van Europeanen.
Het is voor het eerst dat het Europees Parlement macht, die het heeft gekregen door het nieuwe Europees Verdrag van Lissabon, gebruikt om een beslissing van de lidstaten ongedaan te maken.
Door de afkeuring wordt het voor de Verenigde Staten lastiger toegang te krijgen tot informatie die Washington zegt nodig te hebben in de strijd tegen terrorisme.
Een ruime meerderheid van de Europarlementariërs (378 voor, 196 tegen) steunde vanmiddag een resolutie van Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (VVD). Daarin staat dat onduidelijk is welke Amerikaanse overheidsdiensten toegang hebben tot de bancaire transacties. Verder hekelt de resolutie het feit dat burgers niet de mogelijkheid hebben hun opgeslagen gegevens in te zien. Ook was er kritiek op het ontbreken van een beroepsprocedure bij eventuele verdenkingen.
The European Parliament (EP) just became more like normal legislatures. Starting next week, it will get the power to introduce legislative proposals, become involved in all legislative plans of the European Commission, be informed of EU treaties with third parties, have a monthly question hour with European Commissioners, and acquire an observant status at international conferences. See De Volkskrant.