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Commission proposes international charter for Information Society

The European Commission has recommended the launching of an international debate on global communications policy which could lead to the adoption of an international communications charter. The idea was first floated by Commissioner Martin Bangemann in September 1997 during a ...
The European Commission has recommended the launching of an international debate on global communications policy which could lead to the adoption of an international communications charter. The idea was first floated by Commissioner Martin Bangemann in September 1997 during a speech to the Telecom Interactive conference and has now been developed by the Commission.

The proposal would establish a multilateral understanding on a method of coordination to remove obstacles to the development of a global marketplace. The work of existing international organizations would be recognized and the private sector and social groups would be encouraged to participate in the process. However, the charter would not be legally binding, nor would it establish a new international supervisory authority. The Commission believes that the new charter could be agreed by the end of 1999. It proposes that an international Ministerial conference be organized in 1998 or early 1999 to discuss the charter.

Whilst the EU is currently promoting or participating in a number of initiatives relating to the development of electronic commerce and other new services, there is a lack of coordination of such activities at world level. Indeed, sometimes such actions reveal divergent approaches. The Commission fears that poorly coordinated or fragmented regulation will hinder the development of the on-line economy which is set to grow hugely in the next few years.

In principle, the existing legal frameworks of the off-line world will be applied to developing on-line activities. However, in some instances, the technical possibilities opened up by open, cross-border networks, such as the Internet, are beginning to test existing legal frameworks. The Commission has identified a number of legal areas where clarification or adaptation of existing structures will be required, in view of the increasing cross-border dimension to electronic activities:

- With the rise of a more global labour market, mechanisms will be needed to solve disputes relating to trans-national work;
- Differences in data protection regulation will hinder cross-border electronic trade;
- Global advertising on-line raises problems over trademarks which may belong to different entities in different countries in parallel. Already problems with harmonizing Internet domain names are being examined;
- Existing frameworks for consumer protection need to be developed to ensure confidence for on-line purchasers.

The Commission proposes to establish a common global approach through a non-binding international charter. This would build on existing work done by international organizations, but would not set up a new international supervisory authority. During 1998 the Commission will discuss its proposals with experts from the Member States and from users and other interested parties at a round table. At international level, it will seek to promote an active EU-wide contribution to the process by both private and public sectors.

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