On 22 February 2012, following severe criticism from the EP (and various NGOs), the European Commission announced that it would seek the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on whether the Anti- Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – signed by the EU and 22 EU Member States in January – is in any way incompatible with European Fundamental Rights (such as the freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property including that of intellectual property). The Commission has agreed on the principle of making a legal submission to be put before the ECJ on 4 April 2012. The Commission has chosen a sufficiently broad legal question to allow the Court to conduct a detailed review of the different aspects. The Commission has repeatedly stated and remains convinced that ACTA will not change existing EU rules in any way, but it wants to settle this matter by submitting it to the scrutiny of the ECJ.
Meanwhile, the EP’s INTA Committee rejected a proposal of the rapporteur for the Parliament to seek the opinion of the ECJ in addition and in parallel to the European Commission’s Court referral. The INTA Committee considered that this additional referral would only delay the Parliament’s final vote. At the next Committee meeting on 25-26 April 2012, the rapporteur is due to present his recommendation as to whether the EP should give its consent to ACTA. The final Committee vote is scheduled for 29-30 May 2012, and the Parliament as a whole is expected to vote on the issue during its June 2012 plenary session.