The European Union has been accused of trying to push through a controversial deal, which would force internet service providers to hand over the personal details of anyone suspected of infringing copyright online, by the back door.
Leaked documents show that the most hotly contested sections of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was overwhelmingly rejected by the European Parliament less than a week ago, also appear in a trade agreement between the EU and Canada called CETA, negotiations on which are in their final stages.
Experts say that the Agreement’s supporters – who include the European Commission - are trying to get its most controversial provisions past European lawmakers in the knowledge that they would not be able to object to the full Agreement on grounds they have already acceded to in another.
“The European Parliament has spoken very loudly. To put back the same provisions in a much larger trade agreement will make it more difficult to reject. If CETA is successful, then one would think that the European Commission would come back and say ‘well, you just passed that, so you cannot object to ACTA’,” said Michael Geist a law professor at the University of Ottawa, who uncovered the documents.
He added: “It is possible that ACTA was used as a template completely innocently when it was widely accepted in political circles. But, the fact its provisions remain even after it has been rejected in Europe suggest it may be a deliberate attempt to push it through. People would say this is very confrontational and a challenge to the European Parliament.”
The Agreement was the subject of widespread protests in Europe after the nature of its provisions became clear. It was negotiated in secret and only became public when drafts were leaked. Internet freedom campaigners have warned that they expect its most controversial sections of ACTA to keep appearing in draft agreements in an attempt to push them through.
Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party – which has been prominent in its opposition – said: “There now seems to be an new secret strategy to slip the most discredited aspects of ACTA into a different trade agreement.
“The crowbarring of ACTA type provisions into CETA shows the will to ignore the democratic process. There are legitimate concerns about the enforcement, damages and border control obligations in CETA. The EU and international bodies must start to learn the lessons of the ACTA debacle, and truly engage with citizens.”
EU Trade Spokesman John Clancy said: "These accusations are simply rubbish. A future EU-Canada deal will be very similar to the South Korea deal already up and running for a year and that has not brought about the end of a free Internet."