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Background on .EU the Upcoming European Identity

Lori Faye Fischler

Progress is being made towards launching a .eu top-level domain for European individuals, business and organisations.

On 22 May 2003, the European Commission announced its decision to designate the European Registry for Internet Domains (EURID) as the Registry for the new top-level domain (TLD) .eu. EURID is made up of three founder members – the registry operators for the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) .be (Belgium), .it (Italy) and .se (Sweden). The Commission’s decision follows a call for expressions of interest published last September and an evaluation by independent experts of the seven applications received.

In a statement, Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner responsible for the Enterprise and Information Society, said: "The selection of the registry that will manage the .eu TLD is an important step towards the availability of .eu. Once the registry is fully operational, businesses, organisations and citizens in the European Union will be able to register their domain names within the .eu TLD. I believe that the creation of the .eu Top Level Domain will give European citizens and businesses the possibility to acquire a European identity on the Internet".

The history leading up to this latest milestone in the process has involved lengthy consultation with interested parties. Following the European Council summit in Lisbon in March 2000, the Heads of State and Government invited the Council of Ministers of the European Union and the European Commission to draft an eEurope plan. Known as the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, one of its main objectives is to increase the use of the Internet in Europe. The European Commission believes that the introduction of .eu is a key element of this strategy, encouraging e-commerce across member states, as well as promoting European brands in the online marketplace.

Last year, on 25 March, the EU's Council of Telecommunications Ministers gave the thumbs up, which followed an endorsement by the European Parliament (thus completing the ‘co-decision procedure’). In response, the European Commission stated, "After extensive consultations with the European Internet community, the Member States and the European Parliament, the adoption of this Regulation will allow the Commission to take the necessary steps to put the infrastructure for .eu in place. These include the selection of a private, non-profit organisation to manage the .eu Top Level Domain, and the definition of rules to safeguard certain public policy issues." The domain is intended as an addition to the existing European ccTLDs such as .uk, .de and .fr and generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .com and .net.

The decision to introduce a domain name that has a strong geographical association is in contrast to the most recent new gTLDs such as .biz for businesses, .museum for museums and .pro for professionals. It is more akin to the liberalised .us and, as such, presumably .eu will be governed by qualifying criteria similar to the Nexus Requirements for .us registrants.

So where should .eu fit into an online brand strategy and who is it most likely to appeal to?
With the domain being European-specific, it perhaps will be best suited for those wishing to communicate their pan-European presence, such as regional or global brands, or for those with operations linked with EU institutions. It will provide an alternative to the "congested" .com space, with a distinctly European identity. Many companies also will register under .eu as a protective measure, adding this new regional domain to their existing generic and country-specific domain name portfolio.

The next stage, according to the procedure for implementation of the Regulation is the conclusion of a contract between the Commission and EURID. Although the EU has approved the domain it is up to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to take the necessary steps to include .eu in the global Internet Domain Name System.

Also, the Commission is consulting with the Member States and EURID to establish effective policies to address issues such as intellectual property rights and abusive registrations.Depending on the outcome of these consultations, .eu is expected to launch towards the end of this year.

By Lori Faye Fischler, Managing Director
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