Karel De Gucht
European Commissioner for Trade
ACTA: Making the right choice
European Parliament, International Trade
Thank you for having me here on the eve of a crucial
Tomorrow, you will have to make a choice. It is a choice of
The first has to do with fundamental rights and freedoms.
The second has to do with the substance of the agreement:
the enforcement of intellectual property rights, in Europe
and in the rest of the world.
As you know, the Commission has asked the European Court of
Justice for its opinion on whether the Anti-Counterfeiting
Trade Agreement was compatible with the treaties and in
particular with our Charter of Fundamental Rights.
My considered view as a lifelong supporter of human rights
and fundamental freedoms, is that there is nothing to
fear in this agreement. As I have said before, ACTA
is not an attack on our liberties, it is a defence of our
This is because we do not have to modify any part of our
internal legislation, the so-called acquis
communautaire. What is legal today in the European
Union, will remain legal tomorrow once ACTA is ratified.
And what is illegal today will remain illegal tomorrow.
But I know that others take a different view.
This is why the European Commission referred ACTA to the
European Court of Justice. Because those rights and
freedoms need to interpreted correctly.
Tomorrow, one part of your vote is about whether the
referral of ACTA to the ECJ was the correct decision.
You may decide that the European Parliament should rush to
condemnation of this agreement. But you may also decide
that it should wait, hear the Court and then make a
decision after calm deliberation of all the facts.
I am not at all in favour of a "gouvernement des
juges"or government by the Court but on an
issue of the correct interpretation of fundamental rights,
you may prefer to hear the authoritative view of the Court
of Justice. I note that, last year, the Greens asked for
this same Court referral. Now, they no longer support it
but last year's issues are the same as those of today.
The other part of your choice concerns the content of the
agreement: the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
We are in an economic crisis. If Europe wants to have a
successful economy it needs firms that can compete for the
tasks that add the highest value to a product. And the way
they make money and create jobs from those ideas is by
turning them into intellectual property, protecting them
under the law and ensuring the law is enforced.
So as you come to make your choice about how to vote
tomorrow, I believe you also need to consider the signal
you will be sending to the rest of the world.
Honourable Members, in case there is any doubt, I am here
to argue that you postpone your decision on ACTA.
Ifyou decide for a negative vote before the
European Court rules, let me tell you that the Commission
will nonethelesscontinue to pursue the current
procedure before the Court, as we are entitled to do. A
negative vote will not stop the proceedings before the
Court of Justice.
Ifthe Court questions the conformity of the
agreement with the Treaties we will assess at that stage
how this can be addressed.
However, I expect that the Court will instead find ACTA to
be fully in conformity with the Treaties.
In that case, we will be prepared to do two things:
First, I would consider proposing some
clarifications to ACTA. For example on enforcement
in the digital environment. We could look at this in the
light of the discussions you will have had on legislative
proposals which the European Commission is set to put
before the Parliament and the Council. Or for example, we
could seek to clarify further the meaning of
I am also open to a discussion on what sharing information
means in relation to the challenges one faces with respect
to the protection of intellectual property. It is indeed a
new challenge for the classical approach of IPR. But does
this discussion not rather have its place in the debate on
the substantive law, not in ACTA, which is solely about
These are important reasons to pause for reflection as I
believe we will all make a better decision on ACTA if we
have a clearer view of the future direction of the European
intellectual property system.
Second, once we will have identified and
discussed these possible clarifications, I would intend to
make a second request for consentto the
European Parliament. Whether the Parliament will consider
it under this legislature or the subsequent one, will be
for you to decide.
As Europeans I believe that we all share profound respect
for individual freedom.
But I also know that freedom needs a framework. In a
diverse society no one is free if freedoms are exercised
It is a fragile balance. We should all tread carefully.
I hope that you will bear that in mind that as you vote.
Thank you very much for your attention.