Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has urged the largest faction in the European Parliament to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
In a press conference on Friday, Tusk said ACTA "does not correspond to the reality of the 21st century" and should be turned down. The speech completed a U-turn that began two weeks ago, when Tusk — a former arch defender of the pact — said Poland would freeze its ratification of ACTA.
If Poland does not reverse its position again to support ACTA, the pact will be dead in Europe due to its status as a 'mixed agreement'. Even if the European Parliament were to approve ACTA — an increasingly unlikely prospect given the hostility of the parliament's new president — a rejection by a single member state would nullify the agreement across the union.
"I sent a letter today to all the party leaders who cooperate with the Civic Platform [Tusk's party] and the Polish People's Party in the European People's Party, including prime ministers, the [German] chancellor, presidents of some countries and the leadership of the European People's Party, with a proposal to reject ACTA in the shape that was negotiated by the European Commission," Tusk was reported as saying.
The European People's Party (EPP) bloc, which includes the ruling parties of Germany, France, Spain and Poland, dominates the European Parliament, Council and Commission. Some smaller rival blocs, including the Greens-European Free Alliance and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, have already come out against ACTA.
The Polish prime minister, whose country saw some of the earliest large anti-ACTA demonstrations after 22 EU member states signed the agreement, went on to say he had been wrong to sign it. "It would be a sin to maintain a mistaken belief … the agreement does not correspond to the reality of the 21st century," he said. "The battle for the right to property should also respect the right to freedom."
ACTA is an international agreement that was drawn up behind closed doors. Although its stated purpose is to harmonise copyright enforcement around the world, critics have noted that it could criminalise people who simply post a copyrighted image on a blog, or those engaged in small-scale file-sharing.
It would be a sin to maintain a mistaken belief … the agreement does not correspond to the reality of the 21st century.– Donald Tusk
Tusk's move is the most definitive yet from a European leader in rejecting ACTA. After Poland suspended its ratification, the Czech Republic and Latvia did the same. This week alone, Slovenia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and the Netherlands also followed suit.
(UPDATE, Saturday 6pm: There are reports that Austria has now also suspended its ratification process. As in many of the other cases, it appears Austria wants to see the result of the European Parliament vote, currently scheduled for mid-June, before it decides whether or not to press on with ratification.)
Germany and Slovakia, neither of which had signed ACTA in the first place, have also halted their approval processes for the agreement, but in all these cases before Friday the approval of the agreement was still a possibility.
Because ACTA includes new criminal measures, it is treated within the EU as a mixed agreement. This means that the EU, as well as every single EU member state, has to sign and ratify it if the pact is to enter into force anywhere in the EU at all.