The EU today issued a “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council” that addressed the internationalization of ICANN and related Internet governance issues. We found this statement encouraging in part, but mostly disappointing. While its analysis of the problems of U.S. unilateralism and of ICANN are often valid, it makes no concrete proposals that move the debate forward, except that EU and US should negotiate (privately).

We appreciate the willingness of the EU to put some pressure on the U.S. to solve ICANN's problems in a more globally inclusive way. But the statement seems to propose a move backwards to a more traditional intergovernmental process, rather than a more open transnational, multistakeholder approach. In Internet governance, the public sector, civil society and the private sector should be engaged as peers. As a network of networks Internet policy is flexibly shaped by tens of thousands of autonomous systems; e.g., by all of us. Yet this statement, which contains not a single mention of civil society, adheres closely to the discredited Tunis Agenda attempt to divide Internet governance into “public policy” and “technical management” and assign national governments hierarchical authority over public policy. (See my comments before the EU explaining why that approach can't work)

If the EU wants to play a stronger shaping role in Internet governance, it will need to rely more on the quality of its analysis and the creativity of its reform proposals, and less on claims that it has special authority by virtue of the fact that it is composed of governments. The reason governments have been left behind in many Internet governance issues is that they don't keep up with the intimate intersection of technology and policy and have nothing constructive to propose about it. The EU proposal, for example, says nothing about DNSSEC root signing, nor does it propose any new accountability structures to replace the JPA. Even Commissioner Viviane Reding's specific proposal for a Tribunal to serve as an appeals mechanism is missing.

IGP and other civil society participants are becoming increasingly concerned about the tendency of large government players to go behind closed doors and negotiate a solution in the name of “the public interest,” when in fact the most informed and involved members of the public would be categorically excluded from intergovernmental deliberations.