On 20 June 2018, the European Parliament’s (EP) Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee adopted the dreadful Article 13 (CA 14) proposal by Rapporteur MEP Axel Voss, during its vote on their Report on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. With this vote, 15 MEPs out of 25 MEPs have blatantly ignored the calls of experts from all areas, as well as the 188.990 messages sent over two weeks by EU citizens using the #SaveYourInternet tools, as well as the many thousands of others conveyed through other platforms.
Meet the #SaveYourInternet Zeroes and Heroes: see who voted for and against the #CensorshipMachine.
The Fight Continues
Following the adoption of the Report, the JURI Committee also voted to grant the Rapporteur a mandate to negotiate with the EU Member States, during so-called ‘trilogue negotiations’ – more details below on how this black box EU policymaking process works.
We now need to encourage MEPs opposing the Article 13 #CensorshipMachine to contest this mandate through a procedural trick from the book, based on Rule 69c(2) of the EP’s Rules of Procedure.
In short: This means that the fight against the #copyright #CensorshipMachine must go on, and we need to make sure that our voice is heard even louder this time.
Who Do We Need to Convince
First, we need to convince at least 76 MEPs to request that the JURI Committee’s decision to enter into negotiations be put to a Plenary vote. If triggered, this Plenary vote would be held during the Strasbourg Plenary Session from 02-05 July 2018.
Second, once this Plenary vote has been triggered, we need to convince a majority of the 751 MEPs to reject the JURI Committee’s negotiation mandate.
The Need for a July Plenary Win to get a Full Plenary Vote in Fall
If we succeed to convince a majority of MEPs to reject the JURI Committee’s negotiation mandate then the report will be put up for discussion in the next Plenary session (10-13 September 2018). This implies that MEPs can table new amendments to the Report adopted in the JURI Committee. In practice, MEPs can thus table amendments to #DeleteArt13, or at least replace it by a more sensible compromise.
Such a compromise could be the Article 13 text that was adopted by the EP’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committees. This alternative text improves the language of Article 13 and ensures that the filtering requirement is removed. See this handy flowchart by COMMUNIA on it.
For the EU policy aficionados, we’ve set out below in more details how Rule 69c(2) exactly works.
After the July Plenary: Onwards to the Final Vote
For the remainder of the procedure afterwards see EDRi's explainer.
Background on the Procedure
The Procedural Trick from the Book: Rule 69c(2) of the EP’s Rules of Procedure
The normal procedure: The EP’s lead Committee votes on its Report, and if the Report is adopted, they vote on granting the Rapporteur a mandate to negotiate with the EU Member States, during so-called ‘trilogue negotiations’ – more details below. These discussions hence occur before a first reading vote in plenary takes place and is aimed at getting the EP and Council positions close enough o have a done deal at first reading.
The Rule 69c(2) procedural trick: If MEPs disagree with the negotiation mandate granted by the Committee they can fall-back on Rule 69c(2), which stipulates that:
“Members or a political group or groups reaching at least the medium threshold may request in writing that a committee decision to enter into negotiations be put to the vote. Parliament shall then proceed to that vote during the same part-session.”
The “medium threshold” requirement implies “one-tenth of Parliament’s component Members, made up of one or more political groups or individual Members, or a combination of the two” [Rule 168a(1b)].
In practice, a minimum of 76 MEPs can trigger a vote in a Plenary session on a Committee’s decision to give a trilogue mandate non the basis of the adopted Report. If during this rule 69c(2) plenary vote, the EP rejects the Committee’s decision to enter into negotiations, then the “draft legislative act and the report of the committee responsible shall be placed on the agenda of the following part-session, and the President shall set a deadline for amendments”. So in other words, we get a chance to have new amendments to the text tabled and voted on by all the MEPs in plenary.
During the next Plenary session (in this case, in Fall) MEPs will then vote on the amendments and the Report as a whole. If the Report is then adopted this concludes the ‘first reading’ in Plenary, unless “on a proposal of the Chair or rapporteur of the committee responsible or of a political group or Members reaching at least the low threshold, Parliament decides to refer the matter back to the committee responsible for reconsideration” [see Rule 59(4)].
‘Trilogue Negotiations’: The Black Box in the EU Policymaking Process
Once the lead Committee’s Rapporteur gets a mandate to negotiate from the Committee – unless its contested as explained above, he can start informal negations with the representatives of the EU Member States (Council) and the European Commission (EC). The goal of these negotiations is to find a compromise between the positions individually adopted by the EP and Council, that’s acceptable for both institutions. During these discussions the EC is supposed to act as an ‘honest broker’, that helps to find common ground between both EU institutions. The Rapporteur is supposed to report back on to the lead EP Committee on the progress being made during these trilogue negotiations. See this chart by the European Parliament to better understand how this process develops throughout the negotiations.
We stressed the fact these are considered ‘informal’ negotiations, which implies that they happen with little to no public accountability behind closed doors, and usually until late at night to broker a deal, without the negotiations documents being publicly available.
The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has been calling for more transparency of this black box in the EU policymaking process in the past years but the reality is still one of un-transparent horse trading.