European official quits over ACTA “charade”

A senior figure in the European Parliament has quit his position as adviser on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), describing the anti-piracy law’s process as a “charade”.

European official quits over ACTA

On the day 22 EU nations, including the UK, signed up to the agreement, Kader Arif, rapporteur for ACTA in the European Parliament quit his role in protest at the way the agreement has been pushed through.

ACTA has suffered heavy criticism over behind-closed-doors negotiations that many believe are forcing international controls through at the behest of rights holders.

“The European Commission today signed on behalf of the European Union, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, ACTA. I want to denounce the process that led to the signing of this agreement,” Arif said, citing the fact there was “no association of civil society, lack of transparency from the beginning and successive postponements of the signing of the text without any explanation”.

This agreement may have a major impact on the lives of our citizens, and yet everything is done to prevent the European Parliament from having a say

In his role as “rapporteur”, Arif was responsible for ensuring the European Parliament was able to properly investigate the impact of ACTA, but he said he was frustrated by barriers put in his path.

“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,” he said.

“This agreement may have a major impact on the lives of our citizens, and yet everything is done to prevent the European Parliament from having a say,” he said. “I will not participate in this charade.”

While the EU has signed-off the agreement, sparking street protests in some countries, it still needs to be ratified by European Parliament.

Although ACTA has been changed from its most draconian drafts, which called for copyright infringers to be cut off from the web, it continues to draw criticism from rights groups. They claim the agreement could lead to blocking and censorship in a similar manner to the unpopular US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which led to internet protests ealier this month.

With ratification not expected until June, consumer groups are calling on the public to contact their MEPs in a bid to halt the process.

“The ball is now very much in the European Parliament’s court,” said Peter Bradwell of the Open Rights Group in a blog.

“The good news is that gives you a chance to say why we think ACTA is such bad news. Finally, [we have] a mechanism to influence the course of this international agreement.”

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