European Parliament JURI Committee votes for restart with massive majority
Brussels, 2 February 2005 - The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) has decided with a large majority to ask the Commission for a renewed referral of the software patents directive. With only one vote against and one abstention, the resolution had overwhelming support from the committee, and all-party backing.
The decision is a powerful statement from !MEPs that the current Council text, and the logjam of concern it has caused, is simply not a sustainable way forward. It is now up to the Commission to submit a new, or the same, proposal to the Parliament. Parliament will then hold a new first reading, this time under the guidance of Michel Rocard MEP as rapporteur.
The European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Charlie McCreevy, had in the morning assured the JURI Committee that the Council would finally adopt its beleaguered Common Position text. He announced that "the Luxembourg Presidency has now received written assurances concerning the re-instatement of this issue as an A point at a forthcoming Council". Given that A points are to be adopted without discussion, this left no possibilities for renewed negotiations in the Council. Apparently, the Members of Parliament concluded that a restart was the best solution.
Former french prime minister Michel Rocard MEP, PES (FR/PS), gave a very strong speech at the meeting with the Commissioner. Apart from noting several "inelegancies" by the Commission, such as not taking into account any of the Parliament's substantive amendments in its recommendation to the Council, he also took issue with the Dutch and German governments ignoring their respective parliaments and the attempted ratifications of the political (dis)agreement at several fishery Council meetings.
He furthermore mentioned that at a meeting with the Polish government, the industry players had confirmed that the Council text allowed pure software patents, and he wondered how the Commission could continue claiming the reverse. He was also curious about how the Commission's perfectly tautological definition of the concept "technical" could help in any way to distinguish between what is patentable and what is not. Despite his own abstention when voting on the restart later that day, the fact that almost everyone else supported it is probably his personal achievement.
The Commissioner made clear that "any agreement will need to strike a fair balance between different interests", and that "a constructive dialogue between the Council and Parliament will be vital for an agreement". He does have the option to deny a new first reading. But given the strength of feeling in the Parliament and the concerns of so many member states in the Council, the Parliament request looks like the best way to achieve a clean way forward for this Directive that everyone has been looking for.
Jonas Maebe, board member of FFII:
- The Commissioner can jumpstart the constructive dialogue by submitting a new and more balanced proposal to the European Parliament this time. By taking into account the countless new facts that have surfaced since the start of this procedure in 2002, the Commission has a great opportunity to reinvigorate the Lisbon strategy.
Dieter Van Uytvanck, president FFII Belgium:
- We owe this victory for democracy to the members of the European parliament. Today they have shown once again that they really care about the concerns of the European citizens. And of course we would like to thank those as well. I'm sure that without their impressive support for an innovative climate that is freed of software patents, this step would not have been possible.
André Rebentisch, media project manager of FFII:
- The Commissioner was not prepared to take blame for Bolkestein's policy.
Charlie McCreevy is a very straightforward Irish politician. But unfortunately he adopted a pathetic phrase style. Today at JURI he 'read poems' while JURI members talked plain language. There is an option for him: It was old Commissioner Bolkestein who was grilled, poorly defended by his party colleague MEP Toine Manders (VVD). The JURI committee was upset with Bolkestein's policy and the lack of preparation
McCreevy has to change the position of the new Commission if he wants to survive in front of Parliament. MEP Maria Berger suggested he shall learn from this case. Kauppi said we did not need a new proposal from the Commission as Parliament already dismissed it but we needed a real 'common position' from the Council. The wordplay of MEP Lichtenberger clearly indicated the state of the debate: national parliaments and Austrian parties say goodbye ("verabschieden sich") to the Council proposal from May, not that the Council should adopt it ("verabschieden"). MEP Berger indicated she would feel kidded if she had to discuss a "Common Position" in the 2nd reading with many unilateral declarations which state the opposite. There is little to add.
Jan Macek, board member of FFII:
- This is a real victory of choosing the strategically safest way of getting out of the Council deadlock. A new 1-st reading gives the European Union a chance of having a real debate in all countries which I believe will having a really clear directive preventing software patents in a few years, which would not be possible within a limited 3 months time of a second reading. I am really happy that members of the Committee didn´t listen to any pressure from big corporations to adopt the directive as is as fast as possible.
[http://www.itworld.com/Man/2687/050203eupatent/ -> Nicolas Schmit, deputy foreign minister of Luxembourg, which is currently chairing the E.U. Council of Ministers meetings, said on Thursday that he would ask the body, composed of ministers from E.U. member-state governments, to formally adopt on Feb. 17 a draft directive on patents.