Commission, Council and Parliament fight over Marrakesh Treaty

Hot debate on right to read Marrakesh Treaty in European Parliament plenary

The heat has been turned up on the EU Council of Member States to reach a solution for ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty for Visually-Impaired persons. Last night´s debate in the European Parliament Plenary Session expressed the strong opinion of the vast majority of our elected representatives in favour of swift ratification and against the procedural excuses being used by the Council.

The European Commission threatened to send the issue of exclusive EU competence to ratify the Treaty to the European Court of Justice while the Latvian Presidency of the Council expressed total opposition to this possibility. The Commission openly and forcefully “regrets” the Council´s rejection of the Commission´s proposals for ratification and insisted that any new legislation to help implementation would never be a “pre-condition” or “pre-requisite” for EU ratification. On the contrary, the Latvian Presidency said that the presentation of new legislation would “facilitate” the adoption of agreements on ratification and accused the Commission of presenting “poor quality” proposals without saying why. The Latvian Council Presidency did not say what legal changes it wanted from the Commission nor what solution there was to the competence issue but instead forcefully stated: “What needs to be done, must be done!”

Most of the 15 MEPs who spoke in the debate expressed their frustration with the Council over the delay in ratification and implementation of the Treaty. Many demanded a concrete time-table for ratification and rejected placing Marrakesh Ratification and implementation within the general copyright debate currently underway in EU institutions.

Spanish conservative MEP Rosa Estarás stated that the Marrakesh Treaty was the 1st application of UN human rights law (Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons) into international copyright law. She called for an immediate solution to permit ratification and for not mixing this issue up with the general copyright debate .

Italian Socialist Gasbarra asked for a time-table for ratification and to give this issue special priority outside the general copyright debate in the EU.

Spanish leftist Vallina insisted that ratification was a question of human rights of disabled persons and to use procedural questions to block it was simply not acceptable. It went against rights guaranteed by the UN Treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Swedish Green Max Andersson asked all parties to stop squabbling and in-fighting and just to reach a solution.

Five Star Italian Laura Ferrara expressed suspicions that the copyright lobby was behind the blocking of the Treaty and insisted that we had to move from words to deeds.

Hungarian conservative Adam Kosa blamed the Commission for not bringing forth new legislation yet.

UK Labour´s Catherine Stihler expressed her dismay that two years later the Council was still deliberating and stalling on an issue mandated by articles in the UN Convention.

Five Star Italian Isabella Adinolfi accused the great “hypocrisy” for being able to rescue banks in record time but only to have excuses when it comes to helping disabled persons. She cited the strong support of the Vatican for the Marrakesh Treaty as the 1st time human rights law is applied in a copyright treaty.

Hungarian conservative Pal Csaky gave some practical examples of how the Treaty could help solve the problems of cross-border shipment of formatted works for the visually-impaired inside the EU.

German socialdemocrat Weidenholzer stated that he did not understand why countries around the world like Argentina and Canada were ratifying and accused the Council of using “cynical, absurd excuses” for delaying ratification. He said it was not acceptable discuss other political disputes on the backs of the weakest, most suffering minorities such as persons with disabilities.

Greek leftist Notis Mories also accused the Council of “hypocrisy” for not giving preference to human rights and for allowing copyright lobbies to dictate policy.

German Pirate Julia Reda asked if the reasons for blocking the Treaty were political since all the legal services in the Commission and the Council consulted agreed the it was EU exclusive competence to ratify the Treaty. She criticized the negative role of Germany in the Council.

The debate ended without any clear conclusions but with greater visibility of the issues and much greater pressure on the Council of Member States to act.

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