digital piracy

Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images

An anti-ACTA activist in Berlin. (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

With all eyes on the eurozone crisis (and Barclays), it is easy to overlook other events in Europe which, in their own way, are just as important. I have in mind yesterday’s vote by the European parliament to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), an international accord aimed at cracking down on copyright theft.

From all sorts of angles this was a landmark vote. It was the first time that the European Union’s legislature had exercised its right, granted under the EU’s 2009 Lisbon treaty, to block ratification of an international agreement negotiated by the European Commission and approved by EU governments.

Some might call the vote an excellent illustration of why EU policy makers should never have given this blocking power to the European parliament in the first place.

Others, however, will see the vote as a welcome expansion of democratic control over the EU executive and national governments. This seems to be the sense of a statement issued by France’s ruling Socialist party, which hailed “a new inter-institutional balance of power” in Europe and “the active participation of citizens in the European debate”. Read more