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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG)
Belgrade, 30 May 2011
I regret I cannot be physically with you today, but I welcome this opportunity to speak on the occasion of the 2011 EuroDIG.
From the perspective of the Commission, the model of Internet Governance Forums is a defining feature of the Tunis Agenda. The continuously high number of participants at each EuroDIG meeting demonstrates that regional fora, like EuroDIG, have responded well to these expectations. You provide one of the most valuable platforms for dialogue and best practice sharing on Internet matters.
The format and agenda of the IGF and different national and regional fora has successfully evolved during the past years. You now take into account the emergence of new themes and the evolution of Internet governance discussions.
However, it is also clear that the world around the IGF and different national and regional fora has changed. The EuroDIG should not change its nature as a multi-stakeholder, non-binding forum where the "right questions" can be asked; but must also work together to raise its profile and impact.
Indeed, you show that the multi-stakeholder model is the right way forward for Internet governance.
For many issues, it means private sector leadership, working with other stakeholders to shape the future Internet in a way that meets the best interests of the variety of Internet communities, everywhere. At the same time, we must be careful that this initiative respects the general public interest parameters identified by other actors, not least governments.
Indeed, Internet users have a legitimate expectation that their governments participate in Internet governance processes to protect and promote their interests. That is why I have been concerned about the recent developments in ICANN where, for the first time in 12 years, the ICANN Board has decided to take a decision despite the lack of support of its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). This was in relation to the proposed Adult content Top Level Domain ".XXX". It is no secret that I expressed concerns over this approval by the ICANN Board.
I did so for 2 reasons – firstly because I am not convinced that this generic top-level domain (gTLD) makes the Internet a safer place. It mistakenly makes parents think that if their children do not browse on ".XXX" websites, then they will not be exposed to adult content. Second, we have to consider the risk of pushing some Governments towards censorship measures at root level. I call upon ICANN to look into the risk of stability for the networks if this scenario materialises.
In this case, the ICANN Board chose to move forward despite significant governmental concerns, but what does this tell us for the next meeting, in Singapore, which is widely expected to launch the next batch of new gTLDs. The concerns of governments in this process are not trivial – ranging from trademark protection to cooperation with law enforcement. I would expect the conditions for a mature dialogue with the GAC should be met – starting with the gTLD Applicants' Book.
I am pleased to say I have already received expression of support for this initiative from many colleagues, in the EU of course, but also from non-European actors.
Let me be clear – we are not suggesting that some alternative to the multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance is needed, just that it needs to be amended to function better and take into account the voice of Governments.
In this respect, it is also important that ICANN shows that it is trying to improve, for example by swiftly implementing all the recommendations of the "Accountability & Transparency" review team. We will also be following closely the other reviews foreseen by the Joint Project Agreement. Most importantly, the expiry of the "IANA contract" in September will be a unique opportunity to sharply focus on a set of minimum requirements for whichever organisation will be designated to carry out the future IANA functions.
I feel that the new contract should include specific provisions to enhance the standards of corporate governance of the organisation in charge. Besides, we need to address the role of the responsible public authorities when it comes to the treatment of country-code Top Level Domains (or their equivalent), in particular for delegation and re-delegation decisions. Finally, whatever the organisation responsible for naming and addressing resources, it should be required to demonstrate that it has the support of the global Internet community before it makes proposals to add any further Top Level Domains to the Internet.
My objective - that I believe we all share – is to ensure that our Internet Governance model makes progress towards a genuine expression of truly global and multi-stakeholder consensus building.
I know this theme, and many others, will be discussed today and tomorrow. I wish you every success in this endeavour, so that the voice of the European IGF can be heard and enrich our next meeting in Nairobi.