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Brussels/Istanbul, 2 September 2014
European Commission position for Internet Governance Forum 2014, Istanbul 2-5 Sept
The 2014 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, from 2-5 September. This UN-initiated body is a multi-stakeholder, non-decision making forum of global importance for forward-looking discussions on Internet issues. Ministers and Internet leaders including @NeelieKroesEU will discuss the theme "Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance". The 9th IGF will also address topics raised at the NETmundial conference in Brazil earlier this year, including net neutrality, the role and responsibilities of different stakeholders, jurisdiction issues and the application of Internet governance principles. IGF participants will also respond to the NETmundial statement.
Neelie Kroes' objectives for IGF 2014, following on from the Commission's Communication on Internet Governance in February 2014, are to:
Strengthening and Improving the IGF
The European Commission strongly advocates a full and quick implementation of the Recommendations of the UN Working group on Improvements to the IGF. We are confident that a strengthened IGF will progressively become an important driver of successful Internet governance; in the meantime the necessary improvements to the IGF should not be a reason to delay other urgently needed activities.
While preserving its unique nature as a truly open platform for discussion, the IGF should not be sidelined as a mere "talk shop". The time is ripe to produce outcome documents, such as policy recommendations for voluntary adoption.
Key to this is ensuring stable funding for the IGF. Currently, the IGF relies on voluntary funding, including host-country and other in-kind contributions. The European Commission has been one of the main funders of the IGF Secretariat.
The Commission is committed to continue financially supporting the IGF secretariat (until 2015) and we welcome initiatives such as the 'Tides Friends of the IGF Fund' and the 'IGF Support Association’ to collect additional funds. While maintaining the present funding model, it is important to increase voluntary funding to enhance the long-term stability and predictability of contributions. It is important that all stakeholders, particularly EU Member States and European companies, step up their financial and non-financial contributions.
The IGF currently has a mandate until 2015 and decisions about the renewal of the IGF will be taken by the UN General Assembly at the beginning of December 2014. The Commission is determined to secure institutional continuity for the IGF and supports the extension of the IGF mandate beyond 5-year terms. This is essential to ensure the stability required for the IGF to keep up with increased expectations from the international community. The Commission further notes that the IGF would be on a considerably more sustainable footing if more of the resources devoted to internet governance reform were concentrated within the IGF, and looks forward to learning of novel ways of financing this outcome.
Safeguarding and improving the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance
The Commission strongly supports the current multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance and a greater globalisation of key Internet functions, where a transition to an international arrangement is now long overdue.
This is about helping the US achieve its own long-stated intention to achieve such a transition. Following the US announcement in March, the Commission has been working hard to assist this transition by autumn next year. The transition needs to be successful and not jeopardize security, stability or resilience of the Internet. Vice President Neelie Kroes is confident that all parties will meet that deadline.
At the IGF, the Commission will continue to work to overcome shortcomings and a lack of accountability in the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet. The Commission regrets procedural shortcomings over the introduction of new domains including .wine and .vin. Introducing these without adequate protections would be a big mistake. It would undermine the rights of wine producers, and undermine the credibility of the multi-stakeholder model.
The Commission joined the first meeting of the NETmundial Initiative launched by the World Economic Forum in partnership with ICANN and key governmental, industry, academic and civil society stakeholders on 28 August 2014 in Geneva.
The Commission is aware that this initiative can build momentum for internet governance reforms but wishes that this forum not distract or detract from the existing efforts of stakeholders within the IGF to improve governance.
The European Commission is strongly committed to freedom of expression. That is why it is promoting a "No Disconnect Strategy" for the Internet. The European policy on freedoms online is modelled on the same frame as the universal human rights principles for freedoms off-line.
The Commission expressed its concerns with regard to the Law on the Internet, since it falls short of EU standards, imposing restrictions on freedom of expression for Turkish citizens. The Commission indicated that it stands ready to provide any assistance to the Turkish authorities to ensure compliance with the EU standards. This offer remains valid, as do the concerns expressed.
Turkey has huge potential, and should continue to pursue "digital reforms", not only to fulfil EU accession requirements, but also in the interest of the country and for the benefit of its citizens. The Commission encourages Turkey to continue its efforts to develop its own digital agenda and to align and enforce laws and regulations in the field of electronic communications and media.
The Commission provides around one third of the current funding of the Internet Governance Forum, making it the largest financial contributor to the Forum.
In order to ensure a strong European voice at the IGF and show the EU's commitment towards the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance, the Commission held preparatory meetings with both EU industry (on 27 July); and with civil society (webinar on 7 August). In particular, the meeting with EU industry had the specific objective of increasing awareness by European industry about the funding opportunities and in-kind contributions that they can offer to the IGF and IGF Secretariat.