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European Commission Issues U-Turn on .EU domains

European Commission Issues U-Turn on .EU domains

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If you think Westminster is the only place in turmoil over Brexit, think again. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union is also causing issues with the European Commission, the executive body responsible for the union’s administration. One of the things it has managed to get itself in a pickle over, is what happens to the .eu domain once the UK has left. Having come up with a solution, it has now changed its mind and done a U-turn. If you have a .eu domain, this may affect you – so here we’ll explain what’s changed and why it might not be the end of the matter.

The original plan

Since Britain voted to leave the EU, the European Commission has been making plans about what to do with the .eu domains that were registered to individuals or businesses based in the UK. During that period it has issued a number of statements.

Finally, in January this year, it made the decision that, following Brexit, a .eu domain could only be registered to an individual or organisation that was located within one of the remaining 27 EU states. The impact of this was that:

  • Any company based in the UK would not be allowed to purchase or renew a .eu domain.
  • Any UK company wanting to have a .eu domain would have to have a subsidiary of some kind located within the EU that it could transfer registration to.
  • Any citizen from the remaining EU countries living in or running a business based in the UK would also be unable to purchase or renew a .eu domain. They, too, would need to transfer registration to an individual or organisation within the EU.

The plans prohibited the ability to transfer domain names to any other organisation within the UK or extend registration unless it was being transferred to a registrant within the EU. Automatic renewal of domains would cease and any .eu domain formerly registered in the UK would be available for take up by another individual or organisation in the EU. The rights to keep the domains were revoked.

Additionally, there were plans put in place to cover both a deal and no deal scenarios taking place, these were primarily concerned with dates: if there was a leaving deal, UK registrants would be given a longer time to keep their registrations.

What’s changed?

The organisation which administers .eu domains, EURid, has done a U-turn on some, but not all, of the decisions it made in January; in particular, those which concern EU citizens living in the UK. This week, it made the announcement that following the UK withdrawal, EU citizens resident in the UK may still keep their .eu domain names. This is going to be made possible because, on the 19th October, shortly before the withdrawal date, there will be new eligibility criteria set for registration and these will include citizenship criteria in addition to the residency criteria.

Unfortunately, those criteria are not yet fully explained. However, it looks as if one change is that any EU citizen, regardless of where they live, the UK or otherwise, will now be able to register a .eu domain.

What hasn’t changed?

Unfortunately, UK citizens, UK based businesses and foreign nationals based in the UK will still not be allowed to register or renew their .eu domains or transfer them anywhere outside of the EU. Additionally, those domains will eventually be revoked and their rights passed back to EURid who will be able to make them available within the EU.

Is this the final update?

This is the fourth time the European Commission has made a statement about .eu domains since the UK announced its impending departure in 2016. With the arrival of Boris Johnson in Downing Street and his determination to leave the EU by 31st October 2019, there’s little time left for any further updates. However, that doesn’t mean for certain that the EU’s position won’t change.

What does this mean for .eu domains?

Most of the world’s geographical top-level domains (TDLs) are available for anyone to register – you don’t need to be a citizen of or live in the country to register them. However, their main value lies in helping your website’s visibility and trust in a foreign country. The benefit of this is that it can help improve international trade – a Japanese company with a .co.uk domain, for example, will find their site ranks higher in UK searches and is better trusted by the UK population.

By preventing non-EU citizens and companies from owning .eu domains, the EU is restricting international trade. In doing so, it also undermines the value of the .eu domain. If bigger, international organisations are forced to use alternatives, it can make it less attractive to everyone else. The outcome might just be that it becomes a TDL that few will see value in using.  

If you have a .eu domain and need to register a replacement TDL, check out our domain page.

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