Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Monday, 5 March 2012

The Record: Europe

3 March edition
Ed Lowther

A campaign of "organised misinformation" is being waged against an international agreement aiming to clamp down on intellectual property theft, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has told the Record Europe.

The EU's plans to ratify Acta - the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - have been left in disarray as a petition of nearly 2.5 million signatures was delivered to the European Parliament, warning that the agreement would "destroy" freedom on the Internet.

The Commission, which has been instrumental in negotiating the agreement, said it would refer Acta to the European Court of Justice to clarify whether it clashed with any of the EU's fundamental rights.

But Commissioner De Gucht told a panel discussion on this week's programme that he was confident that there was "no problem at all" with Acta's provisions.

He also fiercely criticised claims that the agreement would prevent the distribution of generic medicines.

But German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht warned the panel: "The question is not only what Acta is foreseeing, the question is also what it is not foreseeing.

"Safeguards for the exceptions of generic medicines at border controls; safeguards for fundamental rights when it comes to enforcement measures in the internet environment; they are not explicitly mentioned."

David Martin, a British Labour MEP and fellow panellist, has taken over as rapporteur on the agreement, which entails steering the deal through tumultuous negotiations in the European Parliament, a task from which his predecessor, French Socialist MEP Kader Arif, recently resigned.

Mr Martin argued: "By now Acta would be virtually law if the European Parliament didn't have a role in the process. Because of the European Parliament, because of civic society, because people have raised issues through the petition and other mechanisms, parliament is giving close examination to this issue, and it's slowed the whole process down."

He agreed with the Commissioner that the debate had been blighted by misinformation, but he also accepted that some concerns were justified.

"The problem with Acta is that the devil is in the lack of detail. One of the things, as rapporteur, I'm going to be asking for in the coming months is for the commission to lay out very clearly what guidelines if any they're going to be issuing to border agencies, what guidelines they're going to be issuing to ISPs... in order to apply Acta, because it's how it's applied that will be crucial," he said.

Passenger name records

Another rapporteur, another international agreement. But why is Dutch Liberal MEP Sophia in 't Veld calling on her fellow MEPs to reject her own report on supplying data on EU air passengers to the US department of Homeland Security?

And why will her British Conservative colleague Timothy Kirkhope vote in favour of her report?

Find out as the two MEPs debate the subject.

The Record: Europe examines the key moments in the political week in Brussels and Strasbourg and focuses on the work of the European Parliament and European Commission.

It is broadcast on BBC Parliament on Saturdays at 2300 GMT, on BBC World on Saturdays and Sundays at 0630 CET and on the BBC News channel on Sundays at 0530 GMT and Mondays at 0330 GMT.

Follow the programme on Facebook.

You can also watch full coverage of the plenary sessions of the European Parliament and selected committee hearings at BBC Democracy Live.

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