Germany, which appears to have something of a love-hate relationship with the internet, was this setting this week for a meeting of representatives from 29 countries to debate the future of internet, and in particular issues such as encryption and taxation. And as is customary at such gatherings, the result was a diplomatic fudge. The European representatives, led by Germany, wanted the removal of all restrictions on the movement of encryption software, but the US, which only attended as an observer, wanted to maintain restriction on technology that it perceives as dangerous should it fall into the wrong hands. The countries decided to insert a clause in the grandly titles Bonn Declaration that allows for freedom of movement of encryption software, but that ministers would work towards making encryption software widely available subject to applicable law. So countries that don’t have law restricting the export of encryption software and those that do can carry on as normal. The meeting, called Global Information Networks, brought together around 40 ministers from the European Union, the US, Canada, Russia and Japan. It was the second such meeting held – the first was in Brussels in 1995. The other hot topic in Bonn was internet taxation. President Clinton said in advance of the meeting that he wanted to see a so-called free trade zone under the aegis of the world trade Organization. But European countries are not too keen on the idea as they believe it would disproportionately favor the US. Overall the ministers came out in favor of not imposing special taxes on commerce done over the internet. There was no special clause relating to taxation inserted in the final declaration because ministers felt the matter needed more international debate, which means, of course means another meeting.