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Another photolog from a lobbying trip in Brussels... software patents again! February 1st-3rd 2005

By the start of 2005, the European Council was poised to adopt its common position on the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive, also known as the software patents directive. I was one of many people who worked hard in 2003 to ensure that the European Parliament adopted a good position, and when it voted in September of that year we got everything we had hoped for. But the directive was undergoing a codecision procedure, whereby all three branches of the European Union have their say, as follows:

  1. The European Commission introduces its proposed legislation
  2. The European Parliament votes on an amended version
  3. The European Council then considers the Parliament?s amendments, and adopts a common position based on negotiation
  4. The European Parliament votes on this; all new amendments require an absolute majority (of all seats, as opposed to a majority of people who actually bother to vote)
  5. The European Council checks that this version is acceptable
  6. The Parliament and Council undergo a process of concilliation, until they have a directive they think they can both agree on
  7. Both bodies vote on it, and it becomes law!

When Edward and I went to Brussels, we were reaching the end of stage three. But had we got there, it would have been bad news because the Council’s working proposal, which was by and large redrafted by the Commission, was terrible. Not only did they remove all of Parlament’s good amendments, but they then went and added some more really bad ones. Nice of them.

So, to get to the point, our purpose in Brussels was first to convince MEPs sitting on the Committee for Legal Affairs (JURI) to restart the entire procedure, as a way of kicking the Commission and Council for being so undemocratic. And while we were there, we also went to talk to some UKIP, Tory and Green MEPs to try and persuade them to be more pro-active in their support of our position. We didn’t manage to meet any Labour or Lib Dem MEPs. Hopeless.

Standing outside Parliament

Ed and I standing outside the Parliament building. Would you know that we took a photo of each other, then I put this together using The GIMP? Handy software...

JURI committee

Inside the JURI committee. Three hours of fairly entertaining banter between a Commissioner who bluntly refused to any answer questions, and some very angry MEPs.

Altiero Spinelli detail

Ahh, panoramas. Such fun. This building can seem quite imposing from some angles.

Altiero Spinelli

The Parliament building was named after an Italian bloke called Altiero Spinelli. According to a UKIP MEP, he was a communist. Brilliant.

Parc Leopold

A royal abode in the Parc Leopold, juxtaposed with the new Parliament building. Whether or not you read anything into the composition of a vanity building for a ruthless colonialist in front of the main office space for the EU probably depends on how seriously you take the Daily Mail.

Manekin pis

Ed was so happy when I took him to see the Manekin Pis. Local legend has it that this plucky fellow urinated on a wick that would otherwise have burnt down Brussels. Whether you believe this, or the other interesting tales you read on postcards, or just that Belgians are strange, is up to you. Still, it is the biggest tourist attraction in the city in all respects bar stature.

Only children can drink this water

This was a signpost in the main park in Brussels. I liked the way they left this rusty old sign there, with no water in sight. They obviously weren't still thinking of the children.