By Martin Banks - 28th February 2012
I want to analyse, consult and have a debate on the agreement
Parliament's rapporteur on the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (Acta) says that "many unanswered questions" surround the controversial deal.
Scottish S&D member David Martin also said that a "lack of transparency" during the drafting of the agreement had "undermined" public confidence in Acta.
He was speaking on the day parliament received a petition signed by 2.4 million internet users against Acta.
They fear the deal will pose a threat to a "free and open" internet.
Parliament's international trade committee will start its discussions on Acta on Wednesday. The committee will make a formal recommendation to parliament as a whole on whether to approve the agreement.
Among those due to take part in the debate is European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht.
The merits, or otherwise, of Acta will also be debated at a half-day workshop with academics, civil society bodies and EU officials on Thursday.
Parliament cannot amend the agreement but only approve or reject it. If it does not give its consent, the agreement will be scrapped.
The aim of Acta is to combat IPR infringements by enhancing international cooperation and enforcement but the deal has sparked anger with people taking to the streets of some EU capitals recently to demonstrate against it.
Addressing a news conference on the issue on Tuesday, Martin said he had "open mind" on Acta, adding, "I am neither for or against it.
"I want to analyse, consult and have a debate on the agreement and have not yet come to a conclusion on it."
He said one of the problems" with Acta was that while it seeks to protect intellectual property rights, there may be also be "damaging consequences" if and when it is implemented.
Martin said, "There are many unanswered questions, not about the content of Acta, which we know, but about its implementation."
He said the aim was to produce an interim report, possibly before the summer break, so that parliament can clarify how the commission's "implementation measures" for the agreement.
"We will need all this information before we finally vote on ACTA. But I want us to be able to make an informed decision," said Martin.
He also defended parliament's decision to refer the matter to the European court of justice for a ruling on Acta's compatibility with fundamental rights.
"It is right that parliament puts this question to the European court," said Martin.
Further comment came from Swedish EPP member Christofer Flellner, shadow rapporteur on the Acta dossier, who said that while IPR protection was "crucial" it remained to be seen if ACTA was the answer.
"The big question concerns the consequences of Acta, either intended or unintended," said Flellner.