Dutch parliament refuses ACTA secrecy

November 23, 2011
By Ante

On the same day that the European Parliament had its first secret meeting on ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), the Dutch parliament decided it will not take ACTA into consideration unless all ACTA negotiation texts are published.

A few weeks ago, the Dutch House of Representatives’ committee of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation requested the ACTA negotiation texts (the earlier versions of ACTA). The minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Maxime Verhagen, sent the texts to parliament, adding a non disclosure obligation. In debates, Members of Parliament may not refer to the documents, nor quote from them.

Sunday, Bits of Freedom sent a letter to the committee, asking the committee not to accept the secrecy.

Committee member Kees Verhoeven (D66) proposed a message from the committee to the minister that no substantive treatment of any ACTA document can be made without publication of all relevant documents and above all that the committee can discuss all documents in public. According to experts, the treaty has major implications for Dutch legislation (eg on copyright and Internet freedoms) and the House can’t at the moment consult experts nor can it inform the public about ACTA’s consequences, since ACTA is partly confidential. For this reason, the committee also requests the minister not to take irreversible steps, neither in Europe and nor in the Netherlands, in terms of ACTA. And towards the commission itself, the proposal to temporarily withdraw all ACTA related documents from the agenda until the minister discloses all documents.

Bits of Freedom reports a majority in the Dutch House of Representatives (D66, PVV, GroenLinks, SP and PvdA) adopted the proposal.

Update: December 13, the PVV changed opinion, a plenary motion did not get a majority.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Parliament International Trade committee (INTA) held a highly controversial in-camera meeting to learn what the legal service of the European Parliament thinks of ACTA.

On 9 November, the FFII had send an open letter to the Chairman of the Committee on International Trade (INTA), in which the FFII objected to the planned in-camera meeting on the 23th. On 12 November the INTA chairman defended the secrecy in a letter to the FFII.

7 civil society groups asked for European Parliament transparency on ACTA on the 17th. On Friday the 18th, the Parliament refused to disclose the legal service’s opinion on ACTA, “disclosure would undermine the protection of the public interest as regards international relations”.

On Sunday, the FFII filed a confirmatory application for the legal service’s opinion on ACTA. According to the FFII, the argument that disclosure of the opinion would undermine international relations is totally overstretched. The Parliament’s second reason violates the European Court of Justice case law (Turco case), and the third argument lacks substance.

On Monday 21st, sources in Parliament reported the meeting was postponed. But on Wednesday the 23th, the meeting was on.

Henrik Alexandersson, assistant to Christian Engstrom, reports on his blog:

- Controversial INTA meeting on ACTA held in camera today 23 November despite protests from Civil Society.
- Previous decision to postpone the meeting annulled yesterday night by INTA Coordinators.
- Vote on holding the meeting in public was denied.

After 4 European Parliament resolutions asking for ACTA transparency, the Parliament now took the decision to keep the legal service’s opinion confidential. And to meet in-camera.

This whole show will be repeated soon: the Legal Affairs Committee asked for a legal service’s opinion as well.

A partly secret ratification process… How deep do you want to sink?

The European Parliament should take a good look at the Dutch Parliament’s example.

16 Responses to Dutch parliament refuses ACTA secrecy

  1. ACTA tekstid Riigikogust äkki ka meile? | Irve on November 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    [...] ACTA lepingu tekst saadeti Hollandi majandusministri poolt kohaliku parlamendi töögrupile lugemiseks. Paraku keeluga teksti tsiteerida või sellele viidata. – ACTA blog [...]

  2. [...] annars tänker parlamentet inte rösta om huruvida man vill godkänna ACTA-avtalet. Läs mer om det hos ffii [...]

  3. [...] Parlament holenderski odmawia rozpatrywania spraw ACTA, o ile nie zostaną ujawnione wszystkie dokumenty negocjacyjne. Kwestia dostępu do dokumentów ACTA była podnoszona od lat – także przez ISOC-PL – na wielu etapach negocjacji i w stosunku do rożnych rodzajów dokumentów. Stopniowo te dokumenty docierały do opinii publicznej. Przez wiele lat działo się to wyłącznie dzięki Wikileaks. [...]

  4. [...] les dejó una cereza para este pastel: el gobierno de Holanda se niega a considerar ACTA sino se hacen públicos todos los documentos de su negociación. Por cierto, un país miembro en [...]

  5. [...] les dejó una cereza para este pastel: el gobierno de Holanda se niega a considerar ACTA sino se hacen públicos todos los documentos de su negociación. Por cierto, un país miembro en [...]

  6. Holanda pide transparencia en el proceso ACTA on November 25, 2011 at 6:58 am

    [...] Vía | FFII [...]

  7. [...] les dejó una cereza para este pastel: el gobierno de Holanda se niega a considerar ACTA sino se hacen públicos todos los documentos de su negociación. Por cierto, un país miembro en [...]

  8. [...] les dejó una cereza para este pastel: el gobierno de Holanda se niega a considerar ACTA sino se hacen públicos todos los documentos de su negociación. Por cierto, un país miembro en [...]

  9. [...] Vía | FFII [...]

  10. [...] Mas por vezes ainda vão aparecendo boas notícias, Dutch parliament refuses ACTA secrecy [...]

  11. [...] Dutch parliament refuses ACTA secrecy On the same day that the European Parliament had its first secret meeting on ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), the Dutch parliament decided it will not take ACTA into consideration unless all ACTA negotiation texts are published. [...]

  12. mo on November 30, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Could you tell something about the next steps? In the Netherlands there was a debate today about making downloading illegal. If I’m not mistaken, because of the Lisbon treaty, the EU negotiators cannot agree on propositions in the ACTA treaty that contradict law within the EU. ACTA at best can only harmonize existing laws. At least that was the excuse the past couple of years

    The problem is, that laws within the EU countries have “suddenly” changed. UK, DE and FR have now more strict laws against downloading. The Dutch are next and with the Swiss we are the last that need to make downloading illegal.

    When that happens, all of a sudden the laws within the EU are sort of the same on this topic. In theory, ACTA can then be formally adopted by the EU commission and “harmonize” the now existing law on this topic.

    Is it correct, that ACTA can’t be adopted by the European commission if downloading is not illegal in the Netherlands? Because then there is no agreement in the EU on this topic and so the negotiators do not have the mandate to make international agreements on this point…

  13. Novembe 28, 2011 on December 5, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    [...] The Foundation for a Free Internet Infrastructure reports that the Dutch Parliament “decided it will not take ACTA into consideration unless all ACTA negotiation texts are published.”  The move was proposed by Committee of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation Member Kees Verhoeven and adopted by a majority of the full House of Representatives. It notes that the treaty would require changes to Dutch law on copyright and internet freedoms, but the secrecy in place prevents the legislature from consulting experts and informing the public about the consequences of changes necessitated by ACTA. Click here for the full blog on ffii.org. [...]

  14. Personlig betraktelse: ACTA « Stenskott on December 25, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    [...] inblandning i koordinationen av europeiska ståndpunkter om de straffrättsliga delarna av ACTA) Dutch parliament refuses ACTA secrecy (23 november: om nederländska parlamentets försök att få tillgång till bakgrundsdokumenten [...]

  15. [...] officials also oppose the agreement, one calling it “illegitimate”. The Dutch Parliament has refused to take ACTA into consideration until the process becomes more transparent, and texts of the [...]

  16. [...] Dutch parliament refuses ACTA secrecy while the EU parliament meets in secret (acta.ffii.org) [...]