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Internet governance: Joint statement of the Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes and the European Parliament after the closing of the Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius

(28/09/2010) The Internet Governance Forum meeting in Vilnius (Lithuania) on 14-17 September concluded a successful fifth meeting. As in previous years, it gathered a wide range of participants from all over the globe representing the any diverse Internet Governance stakeholders. After Athens in 2006, this was the second time the IGF was hosted by an EU Member State. This is a testimony of Europe's strong support for developing a global and multi-stakeholder debate on the governance of the Internet.

The main points of discussions can be summarised as follows :

Continuation of the Internet Governance Forum

In view of the decision to be taken next month by the UN General Assembly, the European Union calls on the IGF to be continued as a non-binding multi-stakeholder platform. The IGF has proven to be a very successful and useful platform in the past years. This should not preclude the discussions on how it could be even further improved. One of the main values of the IGF is its capability to attract participants from all over the world. The European Commission and the European Parliament think that all stakeholders should work together to expand the reach of the IGF even further. In addition, following a first joint initiative at the previous IGF in Sharm el-Sheikh, the European Commission and European Parliament extended contacts with East-African countries' representatives and warmly welcome the candidacy of Nairobi for the potential next IGF meeting.

All countries should have the possibility to take decisions regarding their respective Internet sources

It is necessary to enable policy-makers – governments and parliaments alike - to fulfil their responsibilities towards their citizens with regard to internet governance. In this regard, the European Commission and the European Parliament formed a joint delegation to echo the voice of EU citizens in the IGF debates. Additional impetus was given this year to inter-parliamentarian contacts and cooperation.

EU agenda echoes IGF's main themes of discussion

The recently adopted Digital Agenda for Europe sets out a framework of key actions in the field of the fight against offensive or harmful content, data protection, cyber security, broadband deployment, radio spectrum, online rights, and ICT research. The EU is addressing those challenges through its policies, programmes and regulatory provisions.

Digital inclusion

Europe should contribute to closing the digital gap and ensure that all citizens have the possibility to benefit from the advantages that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can offer in our daily lives. This goal covers the geographic inequalities between different regions within Europe and worldwide. For example, developing countries are increasingly expecting further collaboration with the EU on capacity building. The question of accessibility for users with special needs is also seen as an issue that should deserve increasing attention.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression online is of key importance for Internet users world wide. The Commission and the European Parliament would like to see this topic continuously addressed in the IGF.

Security, openness and privacy

Security, openness and privacy are not mutually exclusive concepts. The Commission and the European Parliament welcome that this was reflected in the discussions held at the IGF. These topics have a direct impact on the daily experience of Internet users. It is therefore of utmost importance to take informed decisions. The discussions at the IGF can certainly help all stakeholders to learn more about the challenges at stake, and to exchange best practices.

Diversity and multilingualism for ".eu"

Europe embraces respect for diversity and multilingualism as core principles, and this is also reflected in the ".eu" on the Internet: it is now possible to write email addresses and website links not just in Latin scripts, but also in Cyrillic and Greek scripts since the launch of Internationalised Domain Names under the .eu Top Level Domain in December 2009. This is a major step forwards and the European Parliament and the European Commission call on ICANN to make this also possible at the top level, as a natural complement to making ".eu" fully multilingual.

Child protection

Child protection is tackled at EU level through the Safer Internet Programme and through various provisions stemming from Telecom and Audiovisual regulations.

Net neutrality

The Commission and the European Parliament support the open nature of the internet, allowing end-users to access and distribute information or run applications and services of their choice, thus creating an environment for innovation and new business models to flourish. The Commission has launched a public consultation on net neutrality which will close on 30 September

Radio spectrum

The European Parliament and the Commission, along with Member States, will work together in order to ensure the coordination of radio spectrum so as to integrate the growing demand for new technologies and the development of a wide array of services benefiting European society, notably on the basis of the Commission's 20th September 2010 proposal for a European Parliament and Council Decision to establish a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme.

Interoperability

Interoperability is key for the smooth development of IT systems in Europe and worldwide. The Digital Agenda provides that as part of the review of EU standardisation policy, the Commission should propose legal measures on ICT interoperability to reform the rules on implementation of ICT standards in Europe.

Find more:

Digital Agenda for Europe

IGF brochure

EP resolution on Internet Governance: the next steps