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Internet: Commission seeks global partnership on Internet governance, freedom of expression and the combat against cyber-repression

Commission Européenne - IP/06/542   27/04/2006

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IP/06/542

Brussels, 27 April 2006

Internet: Commission seeks global partnership on Internet governance, freedom of expression and the combat against cyber-repression

To keep up the momentum of the successful World Summit on Information Society (Tunis, 16-18 November 2005), the European Commission has set out today its priorities for implementing the international policy commitments made at the Summit. These priorities include safeguarding and strengthening human rights, in particular the freedom to receive and access information. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) should be used to contribute to open democratic societies and to economic and social progress worldwide. The Commission calls for continuing international talks to improve Internet governance through the two new processes created by the Summit: the multi-stakeholder Internet Governance Forum and the mechanism of enhanced cooperation that will involve all governments on an equal footing.

“The European Union must be at the forefront of an open, accessible and undivided worldwide Information Society and of a free exchange of information, ideas and opinions around the globe”, said Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for the Information Society and the Media. “At the World Summit in Tunis last year, we made an important step towards a global consensus that the day-to-day management of the Internet should take place without the interference of any government. Now we must ensure that those commitments are fully implemented. Interventions in the core architecture of the Internet can no longer be justified if not made on the basis of globally accepted public policy principles.”

In its Communication adopted today, the Commission outlines the follow-up actions it proposes for implementing the commitments made at the World Summit of last November (see IP/05/1424 and IP/05/1433). The EU has actively contributed to the success of this Summit and, by speaking with one voice, helped to find viable compromises among diverging positions among UN partners.

The Commission welcomes the clear and unequivocal statement of the World Summit on the primary importance of the information society for democracy and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; in particular the freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the freedom to receive and access information. Therefore, the Commission notes with concerns the cases of cyber-repression, which means the misuse of ICT to help repressive regimes to restrict the free flow of information on the Internet. The Commission encourages the companies concerned to work on a code of conduct on this crucial issue, in close cooperation with NGOs.

On Internet governance, the Commission highlights that the multi-stakeholder Forum on Internet governance (the first meeting of which will take place in Athens this autumn) and the enhanced cooperation model agreed at the Summit are a prerequisite for developing a worldwide commitment to fight effectively against spam and malware and to ensure the sustainability of the Internet as a global network.

On digital divide, the Commission already proposed in October 2005 a new Partnership on Infrastructures, which will cover areas such as ICT strategy and regulation, technology-neutral broadband networks and development of non-commercial pan-African electronic services.

EU action should also include promoting international cooperation in ICT R&D, which is to become a priority in the EU’s new Framework Research Programme, with the opening-up of all activities to researchers from third countries and joint research programmes between the EU and specific countries or regions.

Finally, the Commission expresses, in today’s Communication, its readiness to closely monitor attempts to call into question the neutral character of the Internet.

Background:

The World Summit on the Information Society was a formal UN initiative at the level of Heads of State and Government. It took place in two phases: in Geneva in December 2003 and in Tunis in November 2005. The outcome of the World Summit is a consensus on a global approach to the Information Society that is common to all UN Member States and reflected in the documents adopted in Tunis. The Tunis documents recognise in particular acknowledge the need for enhanced cooperation on Internet governance matters of a public policy nature to enable governments, on an equal footing, to carry out their roles and responsibilities. They also lay the foundation for a new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The EU is participating actively in the setting up of both processes.

See also MEMO/06/172
Today’s Communication and the Tunis documents are available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/internationalrel/global_issues/wsis/index_en.htm


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