Mobilisation vote Citizen Rights Amendments on May6 Telecoms Package 2nd reading

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Two days to call all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to ask them to vote again for the "CITIZEN RIGHTS AMENDMENTS", in the second reading of the Telecoms Package, which includes all the safeguards that were removed in the "compromise amendments", and crucial safeguards against "net discrimination" (original amendment 138/46, amendment 166 and others).

MEPs are in Strasbourg on Monday the 4th (they may arrive from Brussels around 12:00 or 13:00), Tuesday the 5th, and Wednesday the 6th of May.

On Wednesday, 6 May at 12:00, both the ITRE (rapported by C. Trautmann) and the IMCO (rapported by M. Harbour) reports will come to a vote in the second reading of the Telecoms Package.

In last-minute opaque negotiations with the EU Council, both rapporteurs agreed to water down in their reports the crucial safeguards for fundamental rights and freedoms of EU citizens:

  • In the IMCO/Harbour report, amendment 166 was replaced by an empty version that has no more protective value. Some very light protection against "net discrimination", where operators can choose what content, services and applications may be accessed or used through their networks, was also completely neutralized. The only protection left is now customer information through contracts, which is a scam, because customer and competition law cannot regulate fundamental rights (and they failed to regulate mobile communication networks, which are still agreed as cartels in most member states).
  • In the ITRE/Trautmann report, amendment 138/46 was turned into a weaker version (yet still a clear political sign and legal reminder against the French "three strikes" HADOPI bill), that may require interpretation from a court of justice, and years of challenge, to counter "graduated response"/"three strikes" schemes. The compromise doesn't impose anymore that any restriction be subject to a "prior ruling" by the judicial authority.

The Citizen Rights Amendments correct all these problems. They reinstate amendments 138/46 and 166, remove the open door to "three strikes" policies, and protect against abusive "net discrimination" practice by operators.

It is urgent to contact ALL Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to inform them about these issues, and advise them to follow La Quadrature's voting lists (Voting list for the IMCO/Harbour report and voting list for the ITRE/Trautmann report). Tell them that a few weeks before the elections, EU citizens are watching, recording and scoring their votes in Political Memory.


Most important amendments to be voted are

  • on Harbour report: am.101=111=117 and am.102=12=118 (against "net discrimination") and am. 62=94=104=119 (original am.166)
  • on Trautmann report: am.2=5=6=9 (original am.138)


Time is short and the stakes are crucial.

Contents

[edit] Who?

Everybody should contact all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Here is A list of all the MEPs and a list indicating how they previously voted on the Telecoms Package first reading.

Begin with the members from your country, then members from other countries.

IMPORTANT:

  • Telephoning is much more effective than email, especially on such short notice.
  • MEPs will be reachable in Strasbourg on Monday (from 12/13:00), Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
  • Don't send mass mailings, but do send personal mails.
  • Always stay polite, even if you are unhappy or angry
  • Most of the time you will speak to assistants, who are young, intelligent, and understand Internet.

[edit] When?

The vote will take place on Wednesday, 6 May, 2009, at 12:00. MEPs must be informed before that time.

[edit] What?

Here are the major points you should explain to the MEPs and their assistants:


  • All MEPs must vote for the "Citizen's Rights Amendments", because safeguarding EU citizens' fundamental rights and freedom is the most important mission of the European Parliament. No compromise should be accepted on freedom, not even to make the EU procedure go faster.
  • Direct opposition to the EU Council is preferable to retreating from fundamental rights and freedoms, especially concerning the Internet, which is structuring the future of our societies. Moreover, the Citizens' Rights Amendments do not directly oppose the compromise negotiated with the Council: they strengthen it.
  • Right before the elections, it's a perfect way to show the usefulness of the European Parliament and its commitment to protecting EU citizens, and to send them a strong signal.
  • "Net Discrimination", which gives operators the right to limit access to content, applications, and services over the Internet, is NOT just a market and competition problem, because the Internet is today essential to the exercise of fundamental rights.
  • The failure of competition laws to regulate the behaviour of mobile operators is a blatant example of why we need a strong regulation to protect the structure of the Internet against "net discrimination".
  • Amendment 138 was approved by 88% of the European Parliament in first reading on September 24, 2008. It has been accepted by the Commission, and Mrs Reding herself said that “The Commission considers this amendment to be an important restatement of key legal principles of the Community legal order, especially of citizens' fundamental rights.” It has been accepted again in the ITRE committee by a vote of 40 to 4.
  • Amendment 138 protects users' rights. It reinforces a fundamental principle of European law: except where public security is directly threatened, only a judge can impose conditions -- a sentence under law -- that restrict a citizen's fundamental rights and freedoms.

The original amendment 138:

Applying the principle that no restriction may be imposed
on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, 
without a “prior ruling by the judicial authorities,”
notably in accordance with Article 11  of the Charter of
Fundamental Rights of the European Union on freedom of
expression and information, save when public security
is threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent.

(The notion of "prior ruling by the judicial authority" is crucial, and not as clear in the compromise amendments.)

  • Opposing "graduated response" (or "three strikes") schemes is not only a French problem, because other EU states are considering such schemes, and at some point it was sneaked into the Telecoms Package. It is also about opposing other forms of private, nonjudicial, parallel "justice" that would be dangerous for everyone's civil liberties.
  • It is a strong signal to EU citizens at a time when EU institutions face a deep crisis of confidence that they will protect EU citizens, not merely be a rubber stamp for the wrong-headed schemes of certain Member States.

Most important amendments to be voted are

  • on Harbour report: am.101=111=117 and am.102=12=118 (against "net discrimination") and am. 62=94=104=119 (original am.166)
  • on Trautmann report: am.2=5=6=9 (original am.138)

Here are crucial amendments you should tell MEPs to vote for:

  • Trautmann's report
    • 3=7: guarantee of access and distribution of any content/application/service
    • 1CP=2=5=6=9: original 138
  • Harbour's report
    • 101=111=117: no discrimination in traffic management policies
    • 102=112=118: regulatory powers against discriminated traffic management policies
    • 62=94=104=119: original 166
    • 96=106=120 : deleting cooperation between ISP and copyright holder about lawful content

Other amendments are also important, see the voting list for the ITRE/Trautmann report and the voting list for the IMCO/Harbour report.

[edit] How?

[edit] Example phone call

  • "You" : _"Hello, i am ... , living in ..., I am calling you today regarding the vote in second reading of the Telecoms Package."

(let your correspondent introduce herself, give her opinion and infos on the question, etc.)

  • "You" : _'The "Citizen Rights Amendements' are a strong set of amendments to protect EU citizens. They are protective of fundamental freedoms, when media industries want to impose their private police and parallel, arbitrary justice over the Internet, like what they are trying to do in France and in some other Member States. They also protect against 'net discrimination', where operators want to limit the ability to access content, applications or services to maximize the revenues of their own services."
  • "Interlocutor" : "Mrs/Mr MEP is concerned with this topic, but she/he will follow the instructions of the political group."
  • "You" : _"The compromise amendments removed essential protections: they weakened amendment 138/46 in ITRE, and completely neutralized article 32a (am.166) in IMCO and recital 26 that was vaguely protective against 'net discrimination'. You cannot tolerate such a step back on fundamental freedoms!"
  • "Interlocutor" : "It is complicated. We need to reach an agreement in order to avoid the conciliation procedure with the Council."
  • "You" : _"Is simply reaching an agreement on a certain schedule more important than protecting EU citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms? It is important, before the elections, to show that the Parliament is useful, that it protects its electors, and that it doesn't bend under the pressure that a few Member States apply through the Council! It is more important to get it right than to get it soon!"
  • "Interlocutor" : "There are many other important issues in the Telecoms Package, industries are waiting..."
  • "You" : _"We need Europe to protect citizens before industries. Please tell Mrs/Mr MEP to vote for the CRA amendments in the name of its electors, who will be very attentive to the outcome of this vote. I am available if you have questions about these issues, or other issues related to civil liberties in the digital environment. (Leave your contact info.) Have a nice day, and thank you for your time!"

See below for counter-counter-arguments...

[edit] Other example phone call to begin the conversation

  • "You" : _"Hello, my name is ..., I live in .... I am calling you regarding the 'Citizen Rights Amendments' of the Telecom Package. Mrs/Mr MEP XXX will have to vote on Wednesday on these amendments. I just wanted to tell you my support for having them adopted."
  • "Interlocutor" : _"Mrs/Mr MEP is concerned with this topic, but you know, it's not so simple. There is a lot of pressure and it would be a pity to make the Telecom Package 'fall' because of this amendment."
  • "You" : _"I understand this delicate situation. But I feel that the Council is trying to reverse the responsibilities. It would be natural, I would say indispensable, to save an amendment that had been supported twice by 90% of the Parliament, and to keep other essential safeguards for EU citizens. If the Council doesn't accept that, then the Council alone be responsible for the Telecom Package's 'failure'. I would like to add that this pressure looks like a bluff. The Telecom Package represents 3 years of work from a lot of parliamentarians. The council will not decide to put the Telecom Package in danger."
  • "Interlocutor" : _"Okay, but you know ..."
  • "Conversation"
  • "You" : _"Thanks a lot for listening to me, and thanks to you for your work and also to Mrs/Mr MEP XXX. If you can tell him/her about my call I would appreciate it. And you can tell him/her also that he/she can call me at (phone number) if he/she wants to talk about that"
  • "Interlocutor" : _"Of course, no problem."


[edit] Arguments and counter-arguments

Here are arguments you will hear, and how to counter them:

If you are given other arguments that you cannot counter, please add them to the list or send us an email (contact AT laquadrature DOT net), we will try to counter them as soon as possible.


  • There is no problem of "net discrimination", as the compromise amendments force the operators to provide clear information to the consumers on any limitation to access to content, services, and applications over their Internet services.

Using one's freedom of expression, of information and of education is not a matter of consumer or competition law. Malcolm Harbour cannot pretend that competition law by itself will solve the bad behaviour of telecom operators, when the EU took 10 years to sanction Microsoft with no result, and when nothing was done against mobile operators (in most member states they are structured in cartels and agree on banning voice-over-IP, peer-to-peer and streaming software from their so-called "mobile" Internet!)

  • Going back to amendment 138 (46) or pushing the CRA amendments would cause a direct conflict with the Council, thus bringing a "conciliation procedure" (sort of a third reading, where the text is negotiated between the Parliament and the Council), that would take some more months, and where we may lose what we gained already.

The first role of the European Parliament must be to protect EU citizens: "primum non nocere". Protecting citizens' rights and freedoms must be more important for the Parliament than merely keeping to a schedule. MEPs don't want to show that the European Parliament always yields to the Council. This would show that the Parliament is useless and that the Council always gets what it dictates.

  • If we go to a conciliation procedure, everything will have to be renegotiated, and we will lose many good and important things that are in the package already.

On the matter of protecting citizens' rights, there are not many good things in the package right now. Moreover, reaffirming for a second time its commitment to protecting citizen's right would mean for the Parliament to be in a position of force in the negotiations with the Council. Also, we don't know how strong the Swedish democracy may weigh on the Swedish Presidency... (+ previous answer)

  • Amendment 138/46 is not legal under the law of some Member States. Some Member States such as France, UK, and Sweden won't accept it through the Council.

The Commission accepted the amendment (The Commission considers this amendment to be an important restatement of key legal principles of the Community legal order, especially of citizens' fundamental rights.”), which is an indication that it is likely to be legal under EU law. Moreover, this amendment just restates EU law, as stated by Catherine Trautmann herself after first reading: "if 'graduated response' goes against the fundamental principle that we have only recalled, we must question the viability of the whole scheme". (“S'il s’avère que la riposte graduée va à l’encontre du principe fondamental que nous n’avons fait que rappeler, il faut s’interroger sur la viabilité même du système.“)

Maybe these countries just want to implement "graduated response" / "three strikes" schemes, such as the disastrous French HADOPI law, or create some other system private police and parallel "justice" disastrous for citizens' rights. This would be intolerable.

  • No one will approve amendments against the will of rapporteurs anyway!

Rapporteurs know this is the right thing to do to safeguard EU citizens' rights, and they need a strong majority within the Parliament to support them.

A few weeks before the elections, with massive abstentions expected, rejecting strong protection for their rights and freedoms would be a terrible signal to send to the voters.

[edit] Example letters

Please keep in mind that it is usually counter-productive to cut and paste emails. Personalized mail is always better (and phone calls even better!). Here is a list of messages that were sent to the MEPs.

[edit] Contact us for feedback and help

If you encounter a question you cannot answer, DON'T PANIC. Say that you will call back, and contact us (contact AT laquadrature DOT net). We will be pleased to help you in answering all your questions.

Please also contact us to tell us how it went with your MEP, and what response you received.


[edit] Press Releases

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