By Martin Banks - 21st June 2012
The commission asked us to vote in a certain way
The European commission has been accused of putting "unfair pressure" on parliament over a crucial vote on the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (Acta).
The attack comes after parliament's international trade committee voted on Thursday to reject Acta.
It joins four other committees in rejecting the deal and follows an anti-Acta petition signed by 2.8 million people.
The controversial piece of legislation, which includes measures to combat online piracy in Europe, is now facing the axe.
It was rejected by 19 votes to 12.
A wider vote on Acta will now go ahead in July, but many now regard the bill as dead in the water because the trade committee is the body that formally recommends how parliament should vote on trade issues.
Acta has so far been signed by 22 member states but parliament has to make the final decision on whether to ratify the legislation.
The agreement covers the counterfeiting of physical goods, but campaigners have expressed concern about the anti-internet piracy proposals, such as the potential introduction of fines and imprisonment for online copyright infringement.
UK Socialist deputy David Martin, parliament's rapporteur on the issue, recommended the deal be booted out.
He welcomed the outcome of the vote, saying the committee had acknowledged "the problems I have identified".
"The intended benefits of this deal are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties," Martin added.
He appealed to the commission to "renegotiate" parts of the deal, including an article on sanctions for breaches of copyright which, he said, was of particular concern to parliament.
To many, the vote was not surprising but remarks at a news conference afterwards by Greens MEP Amelia Andersdotter raised some eyebrows.
She accused the commission of applying "undue pressure" on parliament in a bid to delay the vote on Acta.
Speaking to this website later, she said, "The commission tried to influence the vote by trying to persuade committee members to approve the deal or least delay it.
"Nothing direct was said but there was a 'sub-text' to what we were told only this week and I consider this to be unfair pressure. To be honest, I found this extraordinary."
She accused the commission of "showing a lack of respect" to parliament, adding, "The commission asked us to vote in a certain way.
"I hope that in future debates and decisions on Acta the commission will leave parliament alone."
Further reaction to the vote came from German Socialist Helmut Scholz who, speaking at the same press conference, said the public response to Acta had shown the "power of democracy."
He said, "There has been what I call a coalition of the willing on this. Thanks to EU citizens, we can now move in another direction when it comes to Acta."
Elsewhere, La Quadrature Due Net also welcomed the committee's rejection, describing the current Acta deal as "dangerous."
Others were less pleased, with the Anti-Counterfeiting Group and the Association of Commercial TV, saying, "Acta is good for Europe."
Following the vote on Thursday, the next step is for the full plenary to vote on Acta on 4 July.
The assembly does not have the power to amend Acta, only to approve or reject it. But if plenary, as expected, does not give its consent, the agreement falls.