Once the EU Council reaches a "political agreement" to back a proposal, as happened in May, the proposal is rarely rejected or even voted on before it officially becomes EU Council policy. In this case, campaigners say an unprecedented technical fluke has given them reason to hope. In May, EU Council members supported the proposal by 89 votes, one more than the 88 needed for a qualified majority. If the Competitiveness Council had officially backed the proposal during the next five months, it would have gone through without a voteand without a controversy.The lack of support means that the Competitiveness Council cannot support the proposal without a vote, as planned, without going against the most basic principles of democracy, Mueller argued. "There is no longer a qualified majority, and in a democracy that is important," he told eWEEK.com in a telephone interview. The proposal will be formally adopted unless an EU Council member formally requests that it goes to a vote or takes behind-the-scenes actions to withdraw support. However, Council members may choose not to rock the boat, Mueller admitted. "Countries could decide that keeping the working methods of the Council intact is more important than this directive," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.
However, a delay in translating the needed documents pushed the Competitiveness Council decision into November. This has made all the difference because new voting rules that came into effect on Nov. 1 have destroyed the proposals earlier qualified majority, according to Florian Mueller, the campaign manager for No Software Patents. According to his analysis, available on the campaigns Web site (PDF), the proposal now falls 16 votes short of a qualified majority. Poland last week officially declared it could not support the proposal. "Because of numerous ambiguities and contradictions respecting the current directive project, Poland cannot support the text which was accepted in the vote of the Council on 18 May 2004," the Polish Council of Ministers said in a statement.