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The European Commission has announced that Europe's own top-level-domain - .eu - will be live and available by the end of the year.

In a dazzling display of horrible marketing speak, the Commission said yesterday that the domain will give businesses higher visibility within the single market, and will level the playing field for electronic commerce.

The .eu domain has been in the pipeline for some time. It was first mooted by Erkki Liikanen when he was Commissioner for Enterprise in the late twentieth century (November 1999). The registry operator (EURid) was appointed late last year, and the final paper work was signed and sealed in March 2005.

Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding described the agreement between ICANN and EURid as a landmark in the history of the .eu project. "It gives the green light for the final technical preparations to permit .eu to become a reality before the end of the year," she added.

For the first four months of 2006, registrations will be limited to public bodies and registered trademarks. The idea is that this will prevent cybersquatters from nipping in first and registering www.microsoft.eu, www.easyjet.eu, www.benedictXVI.euand so on.

The Commission says it is aware that some companies are offering to pre-register or reserve domain names. It warns against taking up these offers, given the risks of confusion or even fraud. ®

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