Dutch Parliament adopts motion to block software patents A-item
The Hague, 10 February 2005 -- The Dutch Parliament just has adopted a motion requesting its government to prevent the software patents directive from appearing as an A-item on the Council agenda before the Commission has answered the European Parliament's request to restart the directive. Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade Van Gennip has confirmed she will execute the motion as intended. It is now the Commission's turn to act.
Halfway the preceding debate, Van Gennip admitted that she thinks it would be "unwise" if Luxembourg would put the issue on the agenda next week. A subsequent question from the Parliament asking her why she then did not want to support a delay, put her in a difficult position. Her only defense was that she did not want to obstruct the Council Presidency.
The motion, filed by MP Arda Gerkens from the SP, was later on adopted with a narrow majority of 71 votes in favour and 69 against. Support came from !PvdA, SP, GroenLinks, D66, ChristenUnie and LPF. CDA, VVD and SGP voted against. Van Gennip was not very eager to obey the motion, but nevertheless confirmed she will follow it.
The motion is important because despite the request of the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) of the European Parliament to the Commission to provide a new proposal, the Council still aimed to adopt its beleaguered text.
During the past weeks, several sources had indicated that the directive would be placed as an A-item (i.e., a formal point without discussion) on the agenda of the Council meeting on Economy and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN), which starts at 10 o'clock on 17 February. That same day, at noon, the Conference of Presidents of the EP will formally submit the JURI request for a restart to the Commission.
"By attempting to preempt both the decision of the Conference of Presidents and the reply from the Commission, the Council was trying to extend its state of denying that there is anything wrong", Jonas Maebe, board member of FFII, said. "The Dutch Parliament temporarily puts the Council sausage machine on hold, so that the other EU institutions get time to work things out properly. I just hope the Dutch government will actually execute this motion."
In July 2004, the Dutch Parliament already adopted a motion calling upon its government to refrain from further supporting the Council text. The Dutch government has refused to carry out this motion, and said that it would only change positions if discussions were reopened.
The FFII is organising a demonstration in support of the Dutch Parliament and the EP's Conference of Presidents on 17 February in Brussels, when the Council intended to adopt its May 2004 text as an A-item. A press conference will be held at the Marriott Renaissance on 19, Rue du Parnasse, from 13h30 to 14h30.
Arda Gerkens (Dutch MP, SP, motion initiator)
- Given the new composition of te European Parliament, we can suppose a favourable outcome - i.e., rejection of the disputed software patents. Software patents are entirely unfair, they would among other things, tremendously favour the large enterprises, at the expense of small software developers. This is a great victory for both small ICT companies and the democratic way of working in Europe. This is a great reason to celebrate!
Kees Vendrik (Dutch MP, GroenLinks)
- I'm very happy that the strategy of sustained persistence, i.e. calling the State Secretary to the plenary again and again, has now resulted in a fruitful outcome. The signal to the Council is now clear: let the European Parliament present its request to the Commission and let the Commission decide to restart the first reading.