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Now it's the Dutch: Parliament Votes to Block A Item on SW Patents Directive
Thursday, February 10 2005 @ 06:25 PM EST

The Dutch Parliament today voted against software patents being approved as an A item, 71 to 69 and asks the goverment to oppose it. It was anticipated that it might otherwise have been rubber stamped on February 17. Here's the story in Dutch. Tako Schotanus wrote to me to explain what it is saying:

This vote is seen as a lending a hand to the EU parliament that wants to restart the process. The motion accepted in the House of Representatives blocks the possibility that the original proposal will pass as an A item.

If it's up to the House of Representatives the proposal won't be allowed to appear as an A item on the agenda of the EU Council of Ministers.

The Dutch Secretary of State of Economic Affairs said that the motion could pose problems for Luxemburg and that Luxemburg would be "wise" enough not to rush the proposal. But the House didn't seem impressed and several members expressed the fear that Luxemburg would try to put the proposal on the agenda next Thursday.

I'm telling you. This is better than a movie.

Sietse translates a portion of the article like this:

What the opponents in the House of Commons two weeks ago could not pull off succeeded Thursday evening. A majority of the chamber voted for a motion of Arda Gerkens in which the government was called not to agree with the European directive for software patents.

If Luxembourg (at this moment the President of the European Commission) wants nevertheless to put the directive on the agenda, the Dutch government must resist, the Dutch Chamber has decided.

"This is an important step", says Gerkens after the poll. "Also for the European Parliament this a thumbs-up. It becomes now more difficult for the European Commission to reject the request of the parliament to start the procedure again. I am very happy."

Here's a translation of the Dutch motion:

Text of Motion passed by NL Parliament to block A-item

The Parliament,

Having heard the deliberations,

Considering the uniqueness of the European Parliament wanting to invoke article 55 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament,

Considering that not waiting for the answer of the Commission to the request of the European Parliament to restart the procedure concerning the software patents could lead to a serious clash of the European Institutions,

Considering that in order to avoid a possible clash of the Institutions it would be good to wait for the decision of the Commission concerning the restart of the procedure,

Calls upon the government to devote themselves to ensuring that the subject of software patents will not be put on the agenda as an A-Item before the Commission has answered the request of the European Parliament to restart this dossier.

And proceeds to the order of the day.

There is a demonstration and press conference planned by FFII, I gather, for next week in Brussels, and they have a cute banner, the one that says segmentation fault. Here are some more links for those interested:

[1] - comments by Arda Gerkens
[2] - evidence regarding business methods patents

And here's part of the FFII's press release. They sound as surprised as I am.


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. State Secretary 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 would think it 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, which starts at 10 o'clock on 17 February. That same day, at noon, the Conference of Presidents of the EP will normally 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.

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