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European Ministers Form Internet Talk Shop

European Parliament members have created an independent forum for discussing European internet issues and bringing them to the public's attention.

Over 50 MEPs will officially inaugurate the European Internet Foundation (EIF). The Foundation said it will provide wider access to EU policy formation and would try to build a wider participation in online policy debates through its Web site.

However, the EIF will not take positions on specific issues and doesn't have the power to push through policies.

Priority issues which members have already highlighted include ensuring privacy and security of personal online communications. Recognizing consumer rights and protections, eliminating barriers to international shopping and e-commerce and Internet governance are other key areas.

"There was a strongly felt need to create a platform for thought on important EU issues. The EIF will offer a way of communication. and we hope and expect everyone to raise concerns and issues which are important to them," said a spokesman for the EIF.

The EIF will work closely with other networks and institutions including the US Congressional Internet Caucus, which discusses internet related policy issues in the US. The Transatlantic Policy Network will provide a link between the US and the European Union over e-policy debates.

Katherine Reed at Euro ISPA, the European ISP association, said, "We welcome any initiative that encourages and engages discussion and principles for internet objectives."