US, Europe Meet in Brussels, Agree ICANN Reforms Necessary

BRUSSELS, Belgium—European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes and U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling met in Brussels yesterday to discuss “a wide range of topics dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the multi-stakeholder private sector-led model of Internet governance which both the EU and the US have stoutly defended over many years,” according to a statement on the European Commission website.

“In their constructive discussion,” the statement continued, “they agreed that reforms are necessary inter alia to reinforce the transparency and accountability of the internal corporate governance of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), to enhance ICANN's responsiveness to governments raising public policy concerns in the Governmental Advisory Council (GAC) and to improve the way decisions affecting country-code Top Level Domains are made. In addition, they discussed the upcoming award of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions contract.”

The high-level meeting was scheduled following an exchange of letters between Kroes and Strickling that addressed concerns regarding the manner in which ICANN approved the .XXX top-level domain, among other things.

Three specific issues Kroes said she intended to bring up at the meeting were:

• ICANN's responsiveness to governments raising public policy concerns in the ICANN Governmental Advisory Council (GAC);

• The transparency and accountability of ICANN's internal corporate governance; and

• The handling of country-code Top Level Domains for its most concerned public authorities.

Following the pow-wow, Kroes and Strickling agreed to work closely in the run-up to the next ICANN meeting—June 19-24 in Singapore—“to stress the need for the ICANN Board to adequately respond to GAC advice when considering the expansion of generic top level domains (gTLDs) and to make a priority of speedily implementing all recommendations prepared by the Accountability and Transparency Review Team (which finished its work at the end of December 2010).”

The US Government had invited opinions from the global stakeholder community as to how the IANA functions contract can be used to improve global domain name management. The comment period closed March 31, but Kroes offered to host an open forum in Brussels later this year to discuss ICANN-related issues with interested stakeholders.

 “In the meantime,” the statement concluded, “the EU and the US will be reaching out to other nations to exchange views and forge consensus.”