Bulgaria Anti-ACTA Rallies Get Anemic
No more than 150 Bulgarians joined the second protest against the controversial international Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, held on Saturday in the capital Sofia.
The rally was held under the initiative of "No to ACTA," and was part of global demonstrations held on February 25.
Similar, small-scale anti-ACTA protests were held in the towns of Blagoevgrad, Vidin, Dobrich and Sandanski.
Activists say they are pleased with the reaction of Bulgaria's cabinet to withdraw from ACTA, but insist for a definitive and final rejection of the ratification of the agreement.
The organization is further protesting an article in the Gambling Bill, which is scheduled to be debated in the Parliament at second reading. The amendment introduces a mandatory, constant and general control and systematic analysis without a Court order on the entire internet traffic of every Bulgarian in order to find out if there is illegal online gambling. Many in Bulgaria have voiced discontent, insisting this is a violation of their rights.
On January 26, 2012, the Bulgarian government signed in Tokyo the international ACTA agreement, vowing to make downloading content similar to forgery of brands.
The agreement was sealed by Bulgarian ambassador to Japan Lyubomir Todorov, based on a decision by the Bulgarian cabinet taken hastily on January 11.
Transcripts from the meeting of the Council of Ministers from January 11 reveal that it had been Economy Minister, Traicho Traikov, who had made the proposal.
Ever since the signing, ACTA stirred much discontent in Bulgaria, both because it had not been discussed by the cabinet and because the public had been kept entirely in the dark about the decision to sign it, until prominent Bulgarian bloggers and lawyers stirred large-scale noise about it. They lashed out at the signing of ACTA over their belief the agreement will bind countries to install legal regulations that excessively and unduly broadly penalize Internet users.
Anti-ACTA protests took place in 16 Bulgarian and 150 European cities in mid-February.
In the aftermath, Bulgaria's government announced that it is halting the ratification.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, who declared he was assuming the entire political responsibility for the decision and expects to be attacked by international organizations on it.
One day prior to that Traikov, declared Bulgaria will freeze its participation in ACTA and assumed full responsibility for signing it, despite the fact that negotiations on it have started as early as 2006, long before he became member of the cabinet. Traikov even announced that he was ready to resign over the ACTA controversy if Borisov decided such sanction is needed.
Borisov is adamant that the negotiations on the agreement have started during the term of the previous cabinet, and there is no way for the now opposition, left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, to pretend they never heard about it.
According to Borisov, his predecessor and BSP leader, Sergey Stanishev, had been part of the negotiations on ACTA in the European Parliament, while the country's first and former EU Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva led them – the latter is something Kuneva firmly denies.
The PM has vowed that the Members of the European Parliament from his ruling, center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, would not endorse the ratification of ACTA.
"Bulgarian legislation on internet piracy and protection of copyrights is strict enough and we do not need ACTA," Borisov says.
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