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European Parliament rejects ACTA

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The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been rejected by the European Parliament. This means that the controversial treaty cannot become law in the EU or in its member states. This was the first time that the European Parliament has exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement. 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, 39 in favour, and 165 abstained.

ACTA was negotiated by the EU and its member states, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland as a way to improve the enforcement of anti-counterfeiting law internationally.

Over recent months thousands of EU citizens have called on the Parliament to reject ACTA, in street demonstrations, e-mails to MEPs and calls to their offices. A petition signed by 2.8 million citizens worldwide also urged it to reject the agreement.

'I am very pleased that Parliament has followed my recommendation to reject ACTA,' remarked David Martin (S&D, UK), after the vote. He reiterated his concerns that the treaty is too vague, open to misinterpretation and could therefore jeopardise citizens' liberties. However, he stressed the need to find alternative ways to protect intellectual property in the EU, as the "raw material of the EU economy".

The EPP's key ACTA advocate, Christofer Fjellner (EPP, SE), asked before the vote that Parliament should delay its final vote until the European Court of Justice has ruled on whether ACTA is compatible with the EU treaties. A majority of MEPs rejected this request but a substantial minority responded by abstaining in the final vote.

The European Publishers Council (EPC) has called the decision to reject the treaty without knowing the opinion of the European Court of Justice a travesty. Executive director Angela Mills Wade said: 'The European Parliament has totally ignored proper judicial procedure. It has given in to pressure from anti-copyright groups despite calls from thousands of companies and workers in manufacturing and creative sectors who have called for ACTA to be signed in order that their rights as creators be protected.'