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Acta loses more support in Europe

Bulgaria and the Netherlands join Poland and Germany in refusing to ratify Acta, citing privacy and human rights issues

Support for Acta in Europe is waning as both Bulgaria and the Netherlands refuse to ratify the international anti-piracy agreement.

Bulgaria will not ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement over fears it will curb freedom to download movies and music for free and encourage internet surveillance, economy minister Traicho Traikov said on Tuesday.

More than 4,000 people marched in the capital Sofia last Saturday calling on parliament not to ratify the act. Similar rallies drew thousands of protesters across eastern Europe, as well as in Germany, France and Ireland.

"I will table a proposal to the Council of Ministers to stop the procedure of Bulgaria's signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," Traikov said.

The decision means Bulgaria will not take any action concerning Acta before European Union member states come up with a unified position.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Lower House has backed a motion from the Green Left party which says the Netherlands should, for the time being, refrain from signing Acta, according to a report at Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

The RNW report says that the parliament is seeking clarity about whether the treaty threatens the rights and the privacy of internet users.

Acta aims to cut trademark theft and tackle other online piracy but the accord has raised concerns, especially in eastern Europe, over online censorship and increased surveillance. Some protesters have compared it to that used by former communist regimes.

Many Bulgarians also fear the free download of movies and music, a common practice in the bloc's poorest state, might lead to imprisonment if the treaty is ratified.

"Bulgarian society is not ready to accept mechanisms which raise suspicions of violation of the freedom of expression and freedom [on the] internet," Traikov said.

Negotiations over Acta have been taking place for several years. Some European countries have signed Acta but it has not yet been ratified in many countries.

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