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Brussels, 8th July 2003

On-line Services: Commission proposes joining Council of Europe Convention

The European Commission has adopted a draft decision to sign Convention 180 of the Council of Europe on behalf of the EU. This Convention establishes an international mechanism for the prior notification of national rules on online services, based on the EU system of legislative transparency in this area introduced by the 'Notifications' Directive 98/34/EC (see IP/03/227). The Convention's aim is to enhance the transparency and coherence of national rules on information society services as far as possible since these services are by definition often provided across borders.

Internal Market Commissioner, Frits Bolkestein, said: "Electronic services have no physical frontiers. We have to encourage their free movement world-wide while preventing any abuse. This notification system will help us. Firstly, it will enable each party to be inspired by the good regulatory practice of others. Secondly, it will enable participants to express their concern about any proposed regulation which is likely to have negative repercussions beyond the borders of the country proposing it".

Enterprise Commissioner, Erkki Liikanen, said: "Thanks to the mechanism established by the Council of Europe Convention, EU businesses can be informed about third countries' drafts relating to on-line services before they are adopted. The Commission and the Member States will be able to begin a fruitful dialogue with third countries on cross-border legal issues, which will make it easier to adopt common solutions internationally".

Opened for signature in Moscow on 4 February 2001, the Convention, like the 'Notifications' Directive 98/34/EC, as amended by Directive 98/48/EC, aims to establish on a vast geographical scale, an information and administrative co-operation scheme for proposed regulations specifically for on-line services (i.e. services provided via the internet and upon individual request).

In the framework of the Council of Europe Convention, each party may comment on drafts notified by the other parties, thereby contributing directly to the legislative process setting up new rules for on-line services.

This mechanism will for the first time make it possible to have an international system of regular consultation in a developing field, with important legal and economic implications in cross-border terms, in particular as regards the exercise of fundamental freedoms and rights. It will also boost transparency and harmonisation at international level. The system is therefore of great importance not only for the national authorities but also for EU individuals and companies operating in third countries.

The EU's participation in such a system will be based on the administrative arrangement already operating under Directive 98/34/EC within both the Commission and the Member States with no additional burdens for the latter.

In addition to the 45 Member States of the Council of Europe, observer States (such as the USA, Canada, Japan and Mexico) as well as the European Union may become members of the Convention and thereby participate in its international legal information and administrative co-operation system.

Such a legal instrument in a dynamic and innovative area such as information society services will strengthen the solid interinstitutional co-operation which already exists between the European Union and the Council of Europe.

For further information about the operation of the EU notification procedure regarding on-line services, see the following websites:

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