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Witnessing the birth of EU’s Digital Diplomacy

Published on 12 December 2011
Updated on 19 March 2024

Last week in the Hague, at the Internet Freedom Conference, European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes outlined the elements for the EU’s digital diplomacy strategy for dealing with Internet policy issues.[1] Formally speaking, the architecture of the EU’s digital diplomacy is likely to involve her department (digital agenda) and Ashton’s EEAS (European External Action Service, the EU diplomatic service). In this way the EU will follow a clear global trend (e.g. US, China, India, Brazil) of more intensive involvement of diplomatic services in Internet governance, previously the main responsibility of telecommunication and ICT ministries. The full EU’s digital diplomacy should involve all EU Commission directorates that deal with development, security, human rights and other aspects of Internet governance, to avoid the risk of “policy silos”. It also seems that Kroes will conduct multistakeholder digital diplomacy by consulting with civil society, the business sector and academia, both within and outside the EU. Substantively speaking, Kroes has outlined the EU’s digital diplomacy priorities in her recent statements on Internet governance. In her speech at the Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi (September 2011), she introduced the framework of the EU’s digital diplomacy under the name Compact for the Internet. In other statements and blogs she zoomed in on specific issues of the EU’s Internet governance policy.

During the forthcoming period, the main challenge will be to arrange these building blocks together with EU’s foreign policy priorities, especially in potentially delicate areas such as online freedom of expression. Let us follow the emergence of the EU’s digital diplomacy.

[1] Digital diplomacy covers negotiations on Internet-related diplomatic issues (privacy, intellectual property, management of Internet resources). In this context, digital diplomacy is not used to describe the use of e-tools by diplomats (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, blog).

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