Bulgarian MPs Hold Hearing of Ministers over ACTA
Bulgaria's Parliamentary Committees on Economy and on Culture will hold hearings of Economy and Energy Minister, Traicho Traikov, and of Culture Minister, Vezhdi Rashidov, on the signing the controversial ACTA agreement.
The initiative was launched by the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, and was announced Wednesday in plenary hall by its Chair, Valentin Nikolov. He reiterated Traikov's words that Bulgaria has joined the agreement only in principle, and the debate on it was forthcoming.
GERB Members of the Parliament, however, rejected earlier the proposal of the far-right, nationalist party "Ataka" for a hearing of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, and of Traikov on the same issue.
The opposition MP, Petar Korumbashev, from the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, declared such debate is coming too late and should have been held before Bulgaria signing ACTA in Tokyo.
Also on Wednesday, in an interview for the largest private TV channel bTV, the Economy and Energy Minister reiterated his Tuesday statements that ACTA was not a final agreement and is in the process of ratification where Bulgaria can hold debates and express reservations about it.
He explained that the procedure to create ACTA has begun as early as 2007, when the negotiations were held. In 2008, Bulgaria had also confirmed its position on the document, while in 2010, the European Parliament passed a resolution that it agreed on those texts.
Traikov, however, could not give satisfactory answers if ACTA would strongly restrict the online use of music, movies, art images and others, and if negative consumers' comments on certain goods and services could be sanctioned.
He stressed that the agreement does not create new requirements for EU Member States, including Bulgaria, which have high enough copyright standards, but it targets other States that support it. The Minister further explained that ACTA will protect the rights of Bulgarian manufacturers abroad.
Traikov said that he understood while people feel alarmed and suspect such standards since over the years the sound-recording and software industry failed to find a successful business model and were rather seeking repressive measures against consumers.
Transcripts from the meeting of the Council of Ministers from January 11 reveal that it had been precisely Traikov who had made the proposal, which 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 ACTA, 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.
ACTA has already raised an outcry internationally.
On January 26, 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.
22 out of the 27 EU member states have signed ACTA, along with countries such as the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Switzerland.
Among EU Member States, Germany, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovakia and the Netherlands have postponed their signing.
ACTA, abbreviation for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, mandates that signatory countries implement legislation to criminalize certain types of downloading content such as music and movies, from sites not sanctioned by rights owners, such as torrent trackers.
According to the agreement, such actions will be classified as similar to counterfeiting, and will carry heavier sanctions, including confiscation.
The treaty also will require Internet providers to provide information about the traffic of their users.
In order to become effective in Bulgaria, ACTA must first be ratified by the European Parliament and then by the Bulgarian Parliament, which is expected to happen no earlier than June.
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