The European Union says it will refer the controversial ACTA anti-piracy trade agreement to the institution’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, to check whether it complies with the EU’s fundamental rights.
EU trade chief Karel De Gucht is leading the process. He said: “We are planning to ask Europe’s highest court to assess ACTA’s compatibility with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or that of protection… Let me be very clear: I share people’s concern for these fundamental freedoms… especially over the freedom of the internet.”
Although ACTA ostensibly tackles trademark theft and online piracy, it has been spirited through the obscure trade committees in various European countries, sparking protests from online activist concerned it will increase online censorship and surveillance.
So far ACTA has been signed by 22 EU member states, including the UK, United States, Japan and Canada, but key countries such as Germany and Denmark stopped the ratification process after vehement protests in several European cities.
The timetable now is that AACTA is due to be debated by the European Parliament in June – the first time it’s actually be subjected to a democratic process.
While countries individual countries have signed up to ACTA, without EU backing the trade agreement will have much less legislative force.
Furthermore, the ECJ answers to the European Court of Human Rights, so if ACTA passes ECJ scrutiny, it will still be subject to examination by ECHR.