The United Nations Worldwide Telecommunication Union (ITU) is contemplating opening up a brand new workplace in Brussels amid calls from EU nations to symbolize higher the bloc’s curiosity throughout the influential standardisation physique.
ITU is the standardisation company for telecommunication applied sciences, and since 1865, the physique has formed the worldwide requirements that outline the functioning of world digital infrastructure.
Final September, ITU needed to elect its management place, ensuing within the Western-backed American candidate, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, defeating by a big majority the Russian contender for the Secretary-Normal submit.
Europe obtained the second-highest submit of deputy secretary-general with Tomas Lamanauskas, a Lithuanian nationwide.
The thought of organising store in Brussels began circulating in December, when Lamanauskas, then but to imagine the place formally, got here to city to satisfy with key EU officers. Whereas the UN company has multiple workplace on all different continents, in Europe, ITU solely has its headquarters in Geneva.
“We now have been discussing easy methods to ramp up ITU and EU relations as a part of a basic dialogue on easy methods to higher have interaction with taking part nations on the regional stage around the globe,” Lamanauskas instructed EURACTIV, stressing that the Brussels workplace is one possibility amongst a number of on the desk.
At the moment, the European coordination on ITU work takes place on the European Convention of Postal and Telecommunications Administration (CERP). Nonetheless, CERP’s exercise is dominated primarily by the UK, which supplies loads of technical specialists.
In consequence, regardless of being headquartered in Copenhagen, loads of standardisation proposals mentioned in CERP come from London, and as such, they don’t essentially match EU pursuits.
A latest EU Council dialogue confirmed there’s an urge for food amongst member states to arrange a stronger coordination mechanism vis-à-vis ITU. Previous examples present that, when talking with a single voice, Europe successfully defended its pursuits within the worldwide physique.
Final yr, China tried to incorporate its imaginative and prescient for a extra centralised web, the so-called New IP, within the ITU’s mandate, a proposal that was pushed again because of a united Western entrance. Nonetheless, any such coordination stays advert hoc and unstructured.
At this yr’s inaugural assembly of the Telecom Working Social gathering of the EU Council, the place the Fee’s high digital coverage bureaucrat Roberto Viola gave his annual programmatic speech, a number of nations raised the purpose of guaranteeing efficient EU coordination inside ITU.
The nation representatives that spoke out had been Bulgaria, Finland, Estonia, France, Spain, Lithuania, Portugal, Denmark, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Hungary. The dialogue consequently moved on as different nations didn’t see the necessity to reiterate the purpose with the Fee.
The query of the ITU workplace in Brussels was indirectly addressed, though rumours began spreading between the nationwide representatives. Two of the 4 EU diplomats EURACTIV spoke to had been already conscious of the proposals, whereas the remaining had not heard about it.
The Fee’s standardisation technique strives to make the EU’s voice higher heard in such worldwide fora. Nonetheless, in accordance with one diplomat, the EU government appears extra involved with ‘ticking the field’ and finalising its work programme earlier than the mandate’s finish in 2024.
The benefit of the Brussels workplace is perhaps to create a everlasting platform for EU nations to achieve a single place and ship again clear directions to their nationwide capitals. It may additionally assist encourage the involvement of trade representatives, teachers and different stakeholders.
Nonetheless, a second diplomat warned the request won’t essentially be properly acquired overseas. “What would be the opinion of different areas of the ITU if a particular workplace is about up in Brussels? ITU is way broader than Europe.”
Lamanauskas is fast to dismiss these issues. “This effort to strengthen our engagement isn’t unique to the EU. For instance, ITU is opening an innovation workplace in New Dehli.”
One other consideration issues the truth that affect, most frequently than not, is a two-way avenue. Worldwide organisations that arrange store in Brussels are normally poised to affect EU decision-making moderately than assist it. The brand new workplace would additionally channel the data to the remainder of ITU.
The UN company is because of maintain the primary council assembly of this mandate in July, the place the strategic and budgetary plans for the subsequent 4 years shall be set out. Subsequently, the next weeks shall be decisive if the EU needs to safe a extra everlasting foothold within the ITU – and the ITU within the EU.
The European Fee declined EURACTIV’s request for remark.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]