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MEMO/02/65

Brussels, 22 March 2002

Telecom Council, Brussels, 25 March 2002

(Per Haugaard)

The Council of Telecommunication Ministers will meet on 25 March 2002 in Brussels. Commissioner Erkki Liikanen will represent the European Commission.

    1. Dot eu

    Background

    The European Council in Lisbon underlined the importance for businesses and citizens to have access to an affordable, world-class communications infrastructure and a wide range of services. The introduction of a new Internet Top Level Domain ".eu" is an important step in this process, by increasing choice and providing a real European Union "identity" for Internet users.

    For the first time, EU citizens, companies and organisations will be able to have ".eu" domain names and e-mail addresses. This initiative also complements other EU Information Society policies and is a key part of the eEurope action plan.

    The new domain name will be an addition to the existing family of European Union country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), such as ".uk", ".fr" and ".de", and users will be able to have both national and .eu names if they chose to.

    The European Commission took the necessary measures to introduce a new Internet Top Level Domain (TLD) for Europe - ".eu" in December 2000, when it presented a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council. On February 28, 2002 the European Parliament adopted, in its second reading, its Recommendation on the draft Regulation. An inter-institutional consensus now exists which paves the way for the adoption of the Regulation.

    At this Council

    The Telecom Council is expected to adopt the Regulation thereby allowing the European Commission to proceed with implementation.

    The European Commission will then be able to begin the procedure for the selection of the private sector, non-profit organisation to operate the ".eu" Registry, which will actually manage the registration of ".eu" Domain Names.

    More information:

    http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/topics/telecoms/internet/eu_domain/index_en.htm

    2. ²Council Resolution on "Accessibility of Public Web Sites and their Content"

    Background

    On September 25th 2001, the European Commission adopted a Communication (COM (2001)) 59 final "eEurope 2002 : Accessibility of Public Web Sites and their Content". This Communication is a part of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan adopted at the European Council of Feira in June 2000.

    The purpose of the European Commission is to remove technological barriers for web access for the 37 million Europeans with disabilities and for the growing number of older people thus avoiding social exclusion and promoting equal opportunities for all. The Communication was prepared in consultation with organisations representing persons with disabilities, in particular the European Disability Forum.

    The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG V1.0) developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium W3C/WAI, included in the Communication have become a world-wide de facto standard for creation of web accessibility and they allow information providers and web site builders to conform to a set of informal rules on designing and structuring web sites.

    At this Council

    Hence, the Council is due to adopt on 25.03.2002 a Resolution on "Accessibility of Public Web Sites and their Content".

    In brief, the Resolution :

    • Invites the High Level Group on the Employment and Social Dimension of the Information Society (ESDIS) of the Commission to monitor progress in the adoption and implementation of the Guidelines and to develop common methodologies and comparable data so as to facilitate the evaluation of progress.

    • Calls on the Member States and the Commission to participate in the European Year of People with Disabilities in 2003, to improve web accessibility awareness and training, and on the Commission to submit in the first half of 2004 a report giving an overview of progress made.

    • Urges the Member States and the Commission to further develop a permanent dialogue with representative organisations of people with disabilities and organisations representing older persons, so that their reactions to these matters may be taken into account.

    More information:

    http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/topics/citizens/accessibility/wai_presentation/good/index_en.htm

    3. TEN Telecoms

    Background

    The TEN Telecom programme supports services and infrastructures based on electronic communication networks across European borders. The original 1997 guidelines addressed a broad spectrum of services.

    The proposed revised guidelines reorient the programme and focus support on services traditionally provided by public authorities, in line with the eEurope priority areas (Government, Health, Disabled and elderly, Culture and learning).

    At the Council

    The Council will agree its position on the Commission proposal. The preliminary examination of the proposal has resulted in broad agreement on the content.

    The European Commission proposal defines three areas where support will be directed:

    • Applications, i.e. services which are directly visible to the citizen

    • Generic services, i.e. services which are used as building blocks in constructing applications

    • Interconnection and interoperability, i.e. actions which may be needed to prevent the emergence of "islands" of networks and technologies so that services are brought into the market at the European level.

    The four applications areas set out in the guidelines are:

    • eGovernment and eAdministration: governmental and related services benefiting the citizen and SMEs

    • Health: services which will facilitate the delivery of health care, and make it easier for the individual to obtain health related information

    • Disabled and elderly people : all services sponsored by the programme are required to accommodate their needs. This area covers services aimed to meet the specific requirements of disadvantaged groups to improve their social integration as they move across borders.

    • Culture and learning: services allowing flexible delivery of educational material either to support life long learning for the individual, or to allow education providers to customise their offerings, as well as services enhancing access to cultural resources, irrespective of location.

    The European Parliament has not yet started examining the proposal, but it is hoped that agreement can be reached to adopt this revision at first reading.

    4. Followup to the conclusions of the European Council inBarcelona: preparing for an eEurope2005 Action Plan

    Background

    The Barcelona European Council stressed the importance of widespread availability and use of broadband networks throughout the Union by 2005 and the development of Internet Protocol IPv6.

    The European Council called on the Commission to draw up a comprehensive eEurope 2005 Action Plan, to be presented in advance of the June Sevilla European Council, focusing on broadband networks, security of networks and information, eGovernment, eLearning, eHealth and eBusiness. Member States were urged to ensure that, by the end of 2003, the ratio of Internet-connected PCs to pupils is brought down across the European Union to 1 for every 15 pupils.

    This new action plan to be realised by 2005 will complement the current eEurope 2002 action plan was adopted by the European Council in Feira in June 2000 with the objective to :

    • bring citizens, schools, businesses and administrations into the digital age and online

    • create a digitally literate Europe

    • ensure the whole process is socially inclusive, builds consumer trust and strengthens social cohesion.

    As part of the objectives set by the eEurope 2002 action plan, the Council of Ministers formally adopted on 14 February 2002 the "Telecoms package", on which political agreement was reached between the EP, the Council and the Commission in December 2001. Member States will now have 15 months to implement this package into their national laws. The "Telecoms package" is a major overhaul of the regulatory framework for communications services, aimed at bringing more competition and creating a more integrated internal market for electronic communication services and infrastructures.

    The Barcelona European Council asked Member States to ensure full implementation of the new communications regulatory package by May 2003. In addition, the Council called for a rapid adoption of the Directive on Data protection.

    At this Council

    In the follow-up to the Barcelona European Council, the Telecoms Council will have a debate to give guidance as to the work to be undertaken in the coming months to prepare the eEurope 2005 action plan. This new action plan will be drafted and presented by the Commission in time for the Sevilla European Council. In this context an open discussion is foreseen in the Telecoms Council around four main subjects: broadband access infrastructure, a multi-platform approach to maximising accessibility, availability of on-line public services and digital content and network security and IPv6.

    More information: http://europa.eu/eeurope

    5. Management of the Internet

    Background

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the private sector, non-profit corporation set up in 1998 to help co-ordinate certain key aspects of the Internet's technical infrastructure.

    ICANN is essentially a consensus-based model, depending on the continuing and voluntary support and involvement of the key private-sector actors in the Internet world-wide. Its original mandate - to facilitate technical co-ordination in order to ensure the continued stability of the Internet - was deliberately narrow, not least to avoid ICANN engaging in activities which are the proper domain of public authorities.

    Recent developments:

    The ICANN CEO recently published a proposal for a restructuring of ICANN. It proposed a more direct involvement by governments, less direct involvement of individual Internet users, and the restriction of participation in ICANN to those who would fund ICANN.

    In the short period since the ICANN proposal was published, the Commission has had an initial consultation with Member States and received support of the majority for a "reasoned" response, involving an indication that the EU is, of course, willing to participate in any discussion on ICANN's future and on the need for an appropriate role for public authorities in the process. Any radical redefinition of the relationship between the public and private sector actors in the Internet would however require substantial and in-depth consideration.

    A first broad public discussion on the proposed ICANN reform took place at the ICANN meeting in Accra, Ghana, last week. This included participants from Internet naming and addressing organisations and governments. There was some agreement on the need to improve the ICANN performance and discussions on how this should be achieved. Public consultation has now officially started. A proposal will then be submitted to the ICANN Board for consideration at the next ICANN Meeting in Bucharest at the end of June. Decisions on changes to the ICANN structure are not expected to be taken before the ICANN meeting in Shanghai in October.

    EU position to date:

    In both Commission Communications on this subject, the European Commission has proposed support to the principle of private sector self-regulation, and to the need for the eventual privatisation and internationalisation of DNS management. The European Parliament and the Council have endorsed the Commission's approach in various resolutions.

    At this Council

    Commissioner Liikanen will inform the Council about developments, including the conclusions from the ICANN meetings in Ghana.

    More information: http://www.icann.org/


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