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‘The EU is a democracy only on paper’

Patents: The Irish EU Presidency keeps on rolling.

FFII notes that ‘this Wednesday, the Irish Presidency managed to secure a qualified majority for a counter-proposal to the software patents directive, with only a few countries – including Belgium and Germany – showing resistance. (This ‘compromise’ is the most pro-patent text yet,) discarding all the amendments from the European which would limit patentability. Instead the lax language of the original Commission proposal is to be reinstated in its entirety, with direct patentability of program text fragments added as icing on the cake.’

‘The proposal is now scheduled to be confirmed without discussion at a meeting of ministers on 17-18 May, unless one of the Member States changes its vote. In a remarkable sign of unity in times of imminent elections, members of the European Parliament from all groups across the political spectrum are condemning this blatant disrespect for democracy in Europe.’

Some quotes from MEPs about this behaviour:

  • Daniel Cohn-Bendit, chairman of the Greens/EFA Group: ‘The national patent officials in the Council do not want “harmonisation” or “clarification”. They merely want to secure the interests of the patent establishment. If they don’t get what they want, they simply bury the directive project and try to find other ways to get around the existing law.’
  • Anne Van Lancker, a Belgian MEP of the Socialist group: ‘the current Council proposal was written behind closed doors by patent office administrators.’
  • Piia-Noora Kauppi, Finnish MEP of the European People’s Party: ‘the Council is not taking the will of Europe’s elected legislators into account.’
  • Pernille Frahm, Danish member and Vice-Chairwoman of the GUE/NGL group: ‘The patent administrators in the Commission and Council are abusing the legislative process of the EU.’
  • Bent Hindrup Andersen (MEP, DK, EDD): ‘The approach of the Commission and Council in this directive is shocking. They are making full use of all the possibilities of evading democracy that the current Community Law provides.’
  • Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (MEP, NL, ELDR): ‘the Irish Presidency has buckled under the interests of American Companies. A handful of big American Companies may actually profit from software patents, but it is a very bad deal for innovation in European SMEs. Additionally, the Council is showing contempt for parliamentary democracy. We must make sure that after the elections there will again be a majority in the European Parliament that is willing to show its teeth.’

Amazingly, the Council proposal documents aren’t even being released to the public, ‘due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations and the absence of an overriding public interest’; the FFII got hold of them via a leak.

There’s still a chance that this can be reversed; this still needs to be confirmed at the Competitiveness Council of Ministers on 17-18 May. This isn’t a dead cert just yet. As a result, FFII are proposing more demonstrations and another ‘net strike’.

It’s unclear whether writing to anyone will make a difference, at least for people in Ireland, however; everything I’ve read seems to indicate that our representatives on the EU Competitivity Council are not on our side.

Specifically, the only names I can find regarding this Council are Mary Harney, pro-business, anti-regulation right-wing leader of the Progressive Democrats and ‘President-in-Office’ of this committee; and the staff of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s Intellectual Property Unit.

(Of course, Harney at least can always be voted out at the next elections, and I’d strongly suggest anyone working in the field bear that in mind if this gets passed!)

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