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Shaping Europe’s digital future

International organisations and multilateral fora

The EU seeks to advance the European approach to the digital transformation through agreements reached with international organisations and fora.

    A digital globe

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The EU cooperates closely with its international partners to seek common ground when developing international norms and standards, and this should be no different when it comes to digital.

Trading partners joined the EU-led process to set global standards for 5G and the Internet of Things. Now, Europe must lead the standardisation of the new generation of technologies including blockchain, supercomputing and quantum.

The Commission also addresses unjustified restrictions for European companies in third countries in the area of trade and investment. It aims to secure reciprocal benefits in access to markets, intellectual property, research and development, and standardisation. The Commission makes use of all instruments available to guarantee that all parties abide by EU and international legislation, maintaining a level-playing field in the digital sector.


The EU has proactively engaged with the United Nations family in various fora within the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

After the release of final report by the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, the EEAS and the European Commission engaged with UN under-Secretary General Fabrizio Hochschild on a broad consultation exercise to assess the way forward for the implementation of the recommendations included in the report.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

The European Commission has supported activities in the area of e-commerce at UNCTAD and the EU was prominently represented on the 'development dimensions of digital platforms' conference organised by the UN agency in April 2018 in Geneva. This conference explored the growing role of digital platforms and concrete steps to harnessing evolving technologies for sustainable development.

UNCTAD held the first 'Africa e-Commerce Week' in Nairobi, Kenya in December 2019 with the support of the European Commission.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

ITU activities are organised into three areas:

  1. radio-communications
  2. telecommunications standardisation
  3. development issues

The Commission ensures that international rules are in line with EU legislation and policy and that the EU plays a leading role in reaching out to developing countries.

Various regional groupings of ITU members help prepare the work undertaken at global ITU events such as the World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC). The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) is the forum for such coordination for Europe. The Commission acts in an advisory capacity.

The EU is part to the ongoing World Intellectual Property Organisation discussions in the framework of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, and ratified the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works to persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

World Summit on Information Society (WSIS)

The WSIS+10 High-Level Event endorsed the WSIS+10 Statement on implementation of WSIS outcomes and the WSIS+10 Vision for WSIS Beyond 2015. Its outcome documents were developed in an open and inclusive preparatory process: the WSIS+10 Multistakeholder Preparatory Platform (WSIS+10 MPP).

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF)  emerged from the WSIS as an annual, multi-stakeholder, non-decisional forum to facilitate discussions on Internet issues. The Commission has supported the IGF since its inception.

The IGF has now become an important element in the Internet ecosystem, bringing together an extensive range of participants and providing a unique opportunity to have frank and open discussions among players with different ideas.

The first WSIS took place on Tunis in 2005 and set a common vision of societies in which information and knowledge play critical roles in enabling the development of countries, societies and individuals, including those marginalized and the most vulnerable. The European Commission attaches great importance to its conclusions (the 'Tunis Agenda for the Information Society').


The G7 Summit in Biarritz adopted a declaration on the G7 and Africa with a specific focus on 'Digital Transformation in Africa'. The declaration specifically recognises the recommendations put forth by the EU-African Union Digital Economy Task Force.

The French presidency also supported a 'strategy for an open, free and secure digital transformation', which acknowledges a global partnership on artificial intelligence (AI) and allows for the recognition of the French-Canadian initiative for international collaboration on AI.


DG Connect represents the EU in the G20 Digital Economy Task Force.

The G20 Trade and Digital Economy Ministerial, convened in Tsukuba, Japan, saw the adoption of a Ministerial Statement following negotiations around data free flow with trust, artificial intelligence and security.

The presidency was successful in rallying the necessary support for the data free flow with trust (DFFT), and the EU supported the DFFT and its synergies with the EU’s regulation on free flow of data.

The results of this discussion laid the foundations for success at the Osaka summit at the end of June 2019, where the leaders adopted a declaration for the digital economy.

The current G20 under the presidency of Saudi Arabia is working on priorities in continuation with the work of the previous presidencies.


Within the OECD, the Committee for Digital Economic Policy (CDEP) leads on digital issues. As an official member representing the EU's positions in the digital field, DG Connect is in the bureau of the CDEP and ensures cooperation with other Directorates-General, to influence policy discussions and decisions.

The CDEP meets twice a year to approve and elaborate OECD work in the digital sphere. The work of the CDEP is preceded by four policy-working groups that meet twice a year: MADE (on measurement); CISP (on digital infrastructure), SDE (on privacy and security) and DEP (on data governance and privacy).

Council of Europe

The European Union and the Council of Europe have a long tradition of co-operation. The signature of a memorandum of understanding brought a new drive to this relation in May 2007. The Council of Europe and the EU base their relationship on all matters of common interest, in particular the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, political and legal cooperation, social cohesion, and cultural interchange.

The European Commission regularly participates in the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI) of the CoE, where the focus increasingly shifts from media to broader information society issues, including internet governance and artificial intelligence.


The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet's systems of unique identifiers and its stable and secure operation. The European Commission is a member of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN, which advises the organisation on issues of public policy.

The Commission is also designated as the responsible authority for the country code top level domain name '.eu'. The registry for this domain name is Eurid.


The EU actively participates in multilateral negotiations on trade related matters of e-commerce (digital trade), formally launched in spring 2019 and now involving 80 members of the World Trade Organisation. DG Connect supports the negotiators of DG TRADE in this process for topics under its competence. These include telecommunications, free flow of non-personal data, e-signatures and e-authentication, unsolicited commercial communications, and platforms.


The EU and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) share a commitment to regional integration as a means to fostering regional stability, building prosperity and addressing global challenges.

DG Connect holds an annual EU-ASEAN ICT Dialogue in the context of the ASEAN digital ministers and senior officials meetings, which also provides an opportunity to meet bilaterally with individual ASEAN countries. The dialogue and the EU-ASEAN cooperation activities in this field are supported by the EU-funded Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (E-READI).

plan of action for closer cooperation on political, security, economic and socio-cultural issues was agreed in April 2012 at the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Brunei Darussalam.

The Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) connecting the European GEANT research network to similar bodies in Asia received funding from the European Commission with the aim of stimulating the exchange of information among researchers and students.


The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal process of dialogue and cooperation bringing together the EU Member States and the European Commission with 16 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat.

The ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues with the objective of strengthening the relationship between the two regions through a spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.

The Joint Communication on 'Connecting Europe and Asia - building blocks for an EU strategy' adopted by the Commission and the High Representative of the Commission in September 2018 recognises digital as an important element of the EU-Asia connectivity. It is therefore on equal footing with energy and transport networks.

This communication contributed to the discussion of the 12th ASEM Summit in October 2018, where European Commission President Juncker highlighted the importance of investing in more sustainable EU-Asia connectivity.

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