Polish Science and Informatisation minister: We cannot fight alone
Warsaw, 4 March 2005 -- The Polish minister for science and informatisation Michael Kleiber says that Poland will support a request for a B-item (discussion) on software patents at the Council meeting on Monday 7 March if anyone asks for one, but they will not take the initiative. His main message is: Poland cannot fight alone.
It is clear that the current proposal no longer has the support of Poland - if it ever had. This means that there is no qualified majority anymore, and that pushing the current Council text through would be in violation of the Council's own rules of procedure. After all, a qualified majority must exist when the Common Position is adopted. Their political agreement has no legal value whatsoever, no matter what the "unwritten rules" say.
Nevertheless, Poland clearly invites other governments, such as the German and Danish one, to take the lead. If no one takes the initiative to ask for a new vote, the silence will be interpreted as consent to the votes as recorded on 18 May 2004 and thus the Common Position will be adopted.
One often heard argument against reopening discussions, is that this would make any political agreement reached in the future worthless. The reasoning is that any country could always reopen discussions afterwards. E.g. "European Voice" carried a long article last week that made this argument and accused Poland of disrupting the EU's procedures.
However the argument does not hold water.
Rule 3.8 of the Council's Rules of Procedure clearly states that any country can reopen the discussions, unless the Council decides otherwise.
This means that the Council, if backed by a majority of member states, can decline a request for renewed discussions.
Hartmut Pilch, president of FFII, explains:
- There is a simple way for Council legislators to prevent late B-item
requests from occurring: Consult with national parliaments before you conclude a political agreement! Do what the new EU Constitution (Art I-46) and many older documents say you should do! A late B-item request is only a safety valve against abuses of the Council process. In fact it is a weak safety valve that will work only in case of very severe abuse. Renegotiating the software patent agreement does not mean renegotiating every agreement. Contrary to what the patent lobby and some Council diplomats imply, it is not true that every agreement of the Council is based on deception and misrepresentation of national Parliaments. Europe is not a banana republic whose supreme legislators need to fear even the weakest checks and balances.
Jonas Maebe, FFII board member, concludes:
- "There no longer is any excuse not to reopen discussions. Even in
- the European Parliament, both opponents and proponents of software patents are in favour of interrupting the current procedure. The former because they don't like the current Council text, the latter because they are afraid the Commission's restart refusal will only strengthen the opposition. I am really wondering who or what is the actual driving force behind the current collision course of both the Council and the Commission."