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Brussels, 23rd March 2004

On-line services: EU ratifies Council of Europe Convention on notifying new national rules

The European Commission has welcomed the signature and the conclusion on 22nd March by the Irish Presidency, on behalf of the EU, of Council of Europe Convention 180, establishing an international mechanism for the prior notification of national rules on online services, so that regulations adopted in one country do not affect services in others without consultation. This mechanism is based on the EU system of legislative transparency 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. The Commission proposed in July 2003 that the EU should sign the Convention (see IP/03/955).

Internal Market Commissioner, Frits Bolkestein, said: "I am very pleased that the EU is now a signatory to this Convention. Electronic services are by their very nature international and it is no good thinking they can be regulated in one country or group of countries in isolation from the rest of Europe, or indeed the world. This notification system will inspire the dissemination of good practice and make sure that the EU and its Member States will be aware of proposed regulations made outside their borders and will be able to express concerns if they feel there may be negative repercussions inside their borders."

Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner, Erkki Liikanen, said: "The information society is a key factor for growth and competitiveness in the Union. The EU's notification system for such services has worked well and I am delighted that this approach is now being taken up at an international level. It will help to get the most from the global information society by improving transparency and co-operation. It will encourage investment and innovation by businesses which will be aware at an earlier stage of regulatory changes that can have an impact on their activities, and may allow them through their national administrations to influence such changes."

Each party to the Council of Europe Convention 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 boost transparency and, in the long run convergence of rules, at international level. This will benefit not only national authorities but also EU individuals and companies operating in third countries, who would be most likely to suffer from inappropriate regulation.

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 inter-institutional co-operation which already exists between the European Union and the Council of Europe.

The signature took place in the margin of the Quadripartite meeting EU/Council of Europe (gathering the President of the EU Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of the Europe and the Secretariat general of the CoE).

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

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