After months of protests throughout European regions, the European Parliament stated they would send ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, to the European Commission in order for Europe’s highest court to review the legislation. Instead, however, they opted to send ACTA for a vote in the Parliament. The Commission has now stated they’ve heard the voices of the masses who have protested against ACTA; they’ve said they are hoping to delay the legislation before the parliament take a final decision whether to pass it or not during June.

The European Commission confirmed it has “taken the next step in the important process of referring the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).” This has been carried out via the agreement on the legal submission that will be put before the ECJ.

If the European Commission ultimately gets the decision of referring ACTA to the European Court of Justice, the legislation will be delayed for up to two years in order for a full review to be conducted by the ECJ.

Clearly, the Commission has voiced their strong opinion that the vote on ACTA should not be carried out until the European Court of Justice has given their verdict on the legislation’s credence in regards to it complying with fundamental rights.

Trade commissioner Karel De Gucht explained in a statement:

I am very pleased that we are now one step closer to ensuring clarity on ACTA. As I said when I first proposed this action in late February, I believe the European Commission has a responsibility to provide our democratically elected parliamentary representatives and the public at large with the most detailed and accurate information available. Most of the criticism against ACTA expressed by people across Europe focused on the potential harm it could have on our fundamental rights. So, a referral will allow for Europe’s top court to independently clarify the legality of this agreement.

The European Union is founded on respect for the rule of law. Considering that tens of thousands of people have voiced their concerns about ACTA, it is appropriate to give our highest independent judicial body the time to deliver its legal opinion on this agreement. This is an important input to European public and democratic debate. I therefore hope that the European Parliament will respect the European Court of Justice and await its opinion before determining its own position on ACTA.

ACTA is now due to be reviewed through several groups within the European Parliament who will ultimately decide if the legislation should be passed or not. What’s encouraging, however, is that such committees have strongly opposed ACTA such as the Greens/European Free Alliance (who constitute of the Pirate Party), Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group.

Another Parliament Committee, the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) delivered its draft opinion on ACTA recently where they suggested the European Parliament reject the highly controversial legislation due to the fact that it doesn’t “ensure a fair balance between the right to intellectual property and the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information”.

However, not all authorities are accustomed to the idea of delaying a parliamentary vote which will take around a year or two in order for the European Court of Justice to review ACTA. The European People’s Party spearheads every branch of the government in Europe and they’ve voiced their displeasure on delaying the legislation.