The last EP plenary session drew huge attention from the EU citizens as the MEPs decided on whether to consent to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The MEPs also assessed the results of the previous week`s European Council, heard the priorities of the Cypriot presidency which takes over from Denmark, and discussed the situation in Syria, Egypt, and Georgia, also adopting urgency resolutions on human rights violations in the world.
Red light for ACTA agreement
After Tuesday`s plenary debates, on Wednesday, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was rejected by the European Parliament. 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, 39 in favour, and 165 abstained. This way the MEPs completed the procedure of the agreement on the fight against counterfeiting (ACTA), which received great attention and a controversial assessment by the citizens. The biggest EP political group, the Europeans People`s Party (EPP), had 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. However, when a majority of MEPs rejected this request, a substantial minority responded by abstaining in the vote on Parliament`s consent. Since majority of MEPs voted against the agreement which was negotiated and signed by the Commission, it was rejected, and hence cannot become law in the EU.
"ACTA has raised numerous concerns in civil society and even those who, like us, are in favour of intellectual property rights were at a loss to find arguments to defend the agreement. The agreement in particular suffers from the fact that the major counterfeiters are not signatories. The right to intellectual property deserves a more thorough treatment and that is why the Commission should reconsider its approach," said Leonidas Donskis` colleague and President of the ALDE group Guy Verhofstadt. ALDE votes were decisive in articulating the position on ACTA in five EP Committees which were considering the agreement before the plenary session, and all recommended rejecting ACTA.
"There are two lessons to be learned. First, out of the debate on ACTA a true network of citizens has emerged. The other lesson is that the EU institutions cannot pursue a policy without the support of citizens," said ALDE Shadow Rapporteur for drafting the opinion on ACTA Niccolo Rinaldi.
A rejection of ACTA is indeed a historical moment in seeking to establish the European Parliament`s powers in the EU decision-making process. The Lisbon treaty created such possibilities by extending the powers of the only directly elected EU institution in many areas, including in EU ratification of international treaties. The Parliament, as earlier, cannot change the content of the international treaty; however it can reject the treaty that was already signed by the European Commission. It is this possibility that has been used. The European Commission will now be able to renegotiate the agreement, but the future of ACTA remains unclear.
EU summit`s decisions win time for euro
A long overdue step in the right direction: that is how most MEPs assessed the results of the European Council on 28-29 June. Plans agreed at the summit include a compact for growth earmarking €120 billion to support growth in the EU, a single supervisory mechanism for European banks and a possibility of their direct recapitalisation. However, MEPs warn that in order to truly overcome the crisis, the EU will need to quickly adopt concrete legislation, as it was discussed by MEPs with European Council President Van Rompuy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso during the debates in Strasbourg.
President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Guy Verhofstadt pointed out during the discussions that Council is buying time for eurozone crises but must not waste it again.
"Despite the importance of the measures taken during the last week`s summit, have European leaders really grasped the need for more fundamental change? What is urgently needed is the legislative proposals from the Commission as soon as possible on all of the four elements - economic, banking, fiscal and political union. The sooner the Council and the Parliament can get down to examining these concrete legislative proposals, the sooner we will get out of this crisis," said the President of the ALDE group.
On Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution which welcomed the concrete steps taken by the European Council to face up to the eurozone crisis and urges the Commission to table a package of legislative proposals by September, as well as called for further work on the development of a roadmap for genuine economic and monetary union involving the European Parliament as an equal partner in this task.
Human rights situation in Africa, China and Belarus
During the last day of the plenary session the European Parliament as usually adopted three urgency resolutions reacting to the most serious human rights violations worldwide. This time the greatest attention of the MEPs was focused on the situation of LGBTI persons in African states, forced abortions in China and the case against Polish journalist, who criticised Belarusian President A. Lukashenka. Lithuanian MEP Leonidas Donskis co-signed all three resolutions on behalf of the ALDE group.
The resolution concerning LGBTI persons in Africa states that homosexuality is still criminalised in most of African countries, and even it is punishable by death in some of them. Killings, torture, imprisonment, violence, stigmatisation and hate speech targeting LGBTI people are still in many cases legitimised by law. The resolution draws particular attention to the situation of lesbians in Africa.
The second urgency resolution was adopted while reacting to the widely known case when a seven-month-pregnant woman was abducted and underwent a forced abortion, as she could not pay a fine for having a second child, in China.
The EP resolution on Belarus, in particular the case of Andrzej Poczobut strongly condemns the Belarusian authorities` recent arrest of, and allegations against, Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist for the Polish daily ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’. On 21 June 2012 Andrzej Poczobut was arrested in the town of Grodno, Belarus. He was charged on grounds of so-called libel against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for his published texts on the oppositional Belarusian websites. On 30 June 2012 the journalist was conditionally released from custody, signing a promise not to leave his place of residence. It is already the second time when Belarusian authorities punish a journalist who criticises Lukashenka`s regime. The resolution also reminds about other violations of freedom association and expression in Belarus, as well as the cases against persons of the country`s opposition and human rights defenders, including Ales Bialiatski.