Documents considered by the Committee on 11 July 2018 Contents

1The “.eu” internet Top-Level Domain

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

(a) Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; (b) cleared from scrutiny

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the implementation and functioning of the .eu Top Level Domain name and repealing Regulation (EC) No 733/2002 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 874/2004; (b) Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation, functioning and effectiveness of the .eu Top-Level Domain

Legal base

(a) Article 172 TFEU (trans-European networks); ordinary legislative procedure; QMV; (b)—

Department

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Document Numbers

(a) (39664), 8468/18 + ADDs 1–6, COM(18) 231; (b) (39312), 15472/17, COM(17) 725

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

1.1The .eu Top Level Domain (TLD) was launched in December 2005. The .eu TLD allows businesses to promote their European status, and also assures citizens that they are dealing with businesses which have a commercial presence within the EU.

1.2Following a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) review of the rules governing the .eu TLD, which found that the regulatory framework was outdated, overly complex, and not amenable to rapid technical updates as required by developments in the digital economy, the European Commission has proposed a simplified, principles-based regulatory framework for the domain’s management.

1.3Aside from technical changes, the two most distinctive features of the proposal are to permit EU citizens to register .eu domain names irrespective of their place of residence, and to create a “Multistakeholder Council” which would advise the Commission on the implementation of the Regulation, including its management, organisation and administration. The members of the Council would include representatives from the private sector, technical community, Members State administrations, international organisations and civil society (including rights organisations), and academic experts.

1.4The Minister of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Margot James) indicated in an Explanatory Memorandum1 that the Government supported these technical changes, on the basis that they would remove outdated legal and administrative requirements identified by the impact assessment, increase and enhance the role of stakeholders in the governance and administration of the .eu Registry, and generally enhance the performance of the .eu TLD in the expanding domain names market.

1.5Article 3 of the draft Regulation concerning eligibility criteria states that eligibility for .eu domain registrations will apply to:

i)EU citizens irrespective of their place of residence—this is a new provision with the effect that EU citizens resident in the UK will be able to register domains under .eu;

ii)people who are not EU citizens but who reside in a Member State;

iii)businesses established in the EU; and

iv)organisations established within the EU.

1.6With the exception of the addition of allowing EU citizens to register .eu domains irrespective of their place of residence, this text retains the effects of the equivalent provision in Regulation (EC) 733/2002. This means that, in the absence of provisions which provide otherwise within the scope of the future economic partnership, UK citizens not resident in a Member State and UK-based businesses and organisations without a place of establishment in a Member State would be unable to acquire new .eu registrations after the UK leaves the EU or to renew existing ones (notwithstanding any transitional arrangement).

1.7The Minister also draws the Committee’s attention to the Commission’s Notice to Stakeholders on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU rules on .eu domain names, which was published on 28 March 2018. The Minister notes that the Notice observes that:

1.8The Committee previously considered this issue in its report of 17 January 2018 on an EU Communication on the subject of the .eu Top Level Domain, in which it concluded that “by default, when the UK leaves the European Union, and any transition period ends, UK persons and organisations that have registered .eu domain names will no longer be legally eligible for these registrations. 340,000 UK users potentially stand to be affected by this development”. The Committee requested further information from the Government on any stakeholder engagement the Government had undertaken and whether workarounds existed which would permit different types of .eu domain name users to continue to do so post-exit, in the absence of any agreement.

1.9Following the publication of the Committee’s report, EURid (the organisation which manages the .eu domain name registry) responded to suggestions on twitter that .eu jurisdictions were open to anyone by tweeting that “.eu registrations are only open to those residing in the European Union or in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, which we monitor and act upon accordingly”.

1.10In a letter2 in response to the Committee’s report, the Minister stated that:

1.11An employee of Estonia’s e-residency programme also published an article on Medium on 26 January 2018—”How to register a .EU domain from anywhere (or keep it after Brexit)3“—which explained that UK businesses would, post-exit, be able to apply for e-residency in Estonia, which would give them “the right to register a .eu domain or receive a .eu domain that a British citizen transfers to it”. For UK businesses that are not multinationals which are to some extent reliant on a .eu domain name, Estonian e-residency may thus offer a possible solution.

1.12The Minister indicates that the Government anticipates that the draft Regulation will be agreed by both the Parliament and the Council before the end of 2018. It has not yet been decided when the draft Regulation would replace Regulation 874/2004: the text of the proposal states only that this should happen “no later than three years after the entry into force”. The Regulation’s provisions could therefore apply directly to the UK during any transition period, although this would depend on both the length of the transition period and the timescales for implementing the Regulation that are agreed. Obviously, the Regulation would apply to UK stakeholders when it has left the EU and any transitional arrangements have ended, effectively limiting their rights to register and renew .eu domain names.

1.13The Commission’s draft Regulation streamlines the existing rules governing the operation and management of the .eu Top Level Domain (TLD) by removing unnecessary legal and administrative requirements and making the rules less prescriptive and more principles-based, with the aim of making it more competitive vis-à-vis other TLDs. The Government does not have any concerns about the proposal, which it believes is justified, and complies with the principle of subsidiarity.

1.14In terms of the implications of EU exit, the draft Regulation does not significantly alter the implications for UK stakeholders noted in our previous report: the legal default under both the draft Regulation and Regulation (EU) 733/2002 is that when the UK leaves the European Union, and any transition period ends, UK persons and organisations will no longer be legally eligible to apply for .eu domain name registrations or to have existing ones renewed. The Commission has clarified in a notice to stakeholders that the Registry for .eu will be entitled to unilaterally revoke such domain names. At present, there are 317,000 UK-based registrations for .eu domain names which potentially stand to be affected by these developments.

1.15We note the Minister’s assessment that there may be an impact for UK businesses which “have invested in long business plans based on .eu websites for their online presence and operations” and that DCMS is consulting with key stakeholders on the impact of this change. However, the Minister clarifies that UK businesses which have a place of establishment in another Member State will retain their eligibility. We also note suggestions from other parties that UK businesses, including SMEs, could retain their eligibility for a .eu domain name by applying for Estonian e-residency. We are not aware of any means by which UK citizens who have registered a .eu domain name can retain their eligibility, unless they are resident in an EU Member State.

1.16We ask the Government to provide us with:

1.17We ask for responses to the above questions by 27 July 2018. We retain the draft Regulation under scrutiny. We are content to clear the report on the functioning of the .eu Top Level Domain from scrutiny.

Full details of the documents

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the implementation and functioning of the .eu Top Level Domain name and repealing Regulation (EC) No 733/2002 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 874/2004: (39664), 8468/18 + ADDs 1–6, COM(18) 231; (b) Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation, functioning and effectiveness of the .eu Top-Level Domain: (39312), 15472/17, COM(17) 725.

Previous Committee Reports

Tenth Report HC 301–x (2017–19), chapter 3 (17 January 2018).


1 Explanatory Memorandum from the Minister, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) (1 June 2018).

2 Letter from the Minister, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), to the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee (5 March 2018).

3 Adam Rang, How to register a .EU domain from anywhere (or keep it after Brexit) (26 January 2018).




Published: 17 July 2018