EU bosses face call for answers over ACTA

European Council members are facing a demand to explain how the controversial ACTA anti-piracy agreement will be ratified into EU law.

Tabling a priority question to the Council on Monday, Swedish MEP Ska Keller asked how EU bosses planned to enshrine the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement within EU law.

In a second question to the Commission, Keller asked commissioners how they would "ensure that democratic prerogatives of Parliament... are not bypassed by ACTA".

The move comes just two days after ACTA negotiators issued a statement to MEPs announcing that they had concluded the eleventh and final round of talks on the trade agreement in Japan.

"Participants in the negotiations constructively resolved nearly all substantive issues and produced a consolidated and largely-finalised text of the proposed agreement," said the statement, adding that the finalised text would be released, "as promptly as possible".

The ACTA agreement is intended to coordinate international efforts to tackle 'piracy', including the sharing of copyright materials over the Internet.

The talks on ACTA had received a criticism from many quarters over the draconian provisions believed to be being discussed - a fact that was exacerbated by the level of secrecy surrounding negotiations.

Critics charged negotiators with arranging a stitch-up designed to protect the interests of big business.

These fears were fuelled by a Freedom of Information request brought by Internet freedom group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which revealed that organisations including Google, Time Warner, Sony Pictures, the Business Software Alliance and the Motion Picture Association of America had signed non-disclosure agreements in order to participate in the talks.

A leak earlier this year revealed that ACTA negotiators were pushing for the criminalisation of copyright infringement offences, which have previously been dealt with under civil law. Other measures could allow searches to be performed on individuals without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Critics denounced the agreement as "policy laundering", allowing measures to be introduced with little or no democratic oversight.

In March, the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing its disapproval that no parliamentary mandate had been sought for the negotiations. Last month, MEPs maintained pressure with a resolution demanding greater transparency.

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