The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was rejected by the European Parliament earlier this week. Three EU committees strongly recommended the rejection of the Agreement as it poses threats to consumer rights. The Maltese Government, under Dr. Gonzi had originally signed the treaty in January 2012.
The way ACTA came to public attention is a déjà vu for Maltese Citizens. The Agreement first came to light through the publication of a discussion paper by Wikileaks. The European Union and 22 member states signed the treaty on the 26th January. At that stage, the government signed without consultation in Parliament. In this instance, GonziPN cannot make any excuses. The Prime Minister and various other exponents of the Nationalist Party defended the actions of GonziPN. The Minister for Finance had tried to circumvent this disregard for the Maltese Parliament by saying that the government had only signed the treaty but not yet ratified it. Was Mr. Fenech implying that what GonziPN signs without Parliament’s approval is worthless?
The main sponsors of the agreement were the European Peoples Party (EPP) of which the two Nationalist MEPs form part. These two PN Members of Parliament, in fact, originally supported the deal negotiated by the Commission. In the European Parliament the EPP was disappointed by the decision and tried to stall the vote by stating that it wanted to wait for a decision by the European Court; whilst the Party of European Socialists and the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats welcomed the European Parliament’s vote and called the decision a ‘victory for mobilization, transparency and democracy’.
Simon Busuttil and David Casa had supported the agreement. In February, the Malta Chamber of Commerce said that ACTA safeguards the interests of legitimate businesses and the creation of jobs. The chamber of commerce was echoing the words of Simon Busuttil, who had said that "In principle I cannot object to it because I am in favour of the fight against counterfeit and piracy because it is illegal and because there are thousands of people in Malta who are working for Maltese companies producing goods or software who could be victims of false products. Their job is at risk everyday because of counterfeit and pirate products”.
The Labour Party has been consistent in its criticism of this agreement. It has defended the rights of the consumers and highlighted the ambiguity of the agreement. The PL had also opposed the proposed penalties, which it described as draconian.
The only comments made by the Nationalist Party MEPs were in no way apologetic. In a joint statement they say that the decision was not an ideal one to vote on. They both state that they would have preferred the vote to be postponed. Reading between the lines, it is obvious that they are not against the agreement. They claim that their vote reflects the people’s concern yet they indicate that they would rather have waited before voting in accordance with the people’s clear message for freedom.
In line with GonziPN policy, these two MEPs prefer adhering to the policy of their party and its associates, in this case the EPP. It is another clear example that for the PN, the party comes before the country.