The European Union and most Member States signed the so-called ACTA-agreement in a brief ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo on Thursday, 26 January. Representing Sweden I was the one who signed on behalf of the Swedish Government. Since then I have received many comments, some expressed in a civilized manner, others less so. Several of the commentators have argued in ways that reflect that the decision making process has not been clearly understood. Therefore, I would like to make a few comments.
One of the main functions of our Embassies in other countries is to represent the Government in its communication with the Government of the host country. This communication can consist of questions, answers, statements, discussions about upcoming visits, cooperation in various areas, etc. The diplomats at the Embassy accept to work for the Government that has been democratically elected through national elections and decisions by the elected representatives in Parliament. They communicate to the Government in the country where they work whatever their Government decides to communicate. If they cannot accept this task they cannot function as diplomats.
The Swedish Government decided to sign the ACTA agreement. Hence it instructed the Embassy to sign it. What will now happen is that the Parliament in Sweden will debate this decision, once the Government submits a proposal to ratify it. If a majority of the elected parliamentarians rejects the proposal it will not be ratified. A similar process will also be neccessary in the European Parliament, where we also have elected representatives from Sweden. The text of the ACTA agreement has been public for over a year. The majorities in the relevant committees of the Swedish Parliament have supported the Government’s decision to sign the agreement, but there will be more debates and possibilities to reject the agreement once the Government proposes that the Parliament should ratify it.
To ask me, as a diplomat representing Sweden in Japan, not to sign the agreement, or to somehow debate its content when I sign it, is like asking a mailman not to deliver a letter or to start debating its contents with the addressee. I have opportunities to express my opinion about the agreement in the same way that other citizens have, but when doing so it is important to direct the arguments to where the decisions are taken.
Having said that, I appreciate the fact that so many people are engaged in issues of this kind. A common argument that I have received is that this agreement threatens democracy and the free market. If this is the case it is all the more important to raise dissenting voices. My personal opinion is that it does not threaten democracy, on the contrary, but I certainly respect those who argue in other ways.