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Telecoms agreement is "major boost" to EU economy

European Commission - IP/01/1801   12/12/2001

Other available languages: FR DE

IP/01/1801

Brussels, 12 December 2001

Telecoms agreement is "major boost" to EU economy

The European Parliament voted today in Strasbourg to accept a compromise deal submitted by the Belgian Presidency on the EU Telecom Package to modernise and simplify the current regulatory environment for electronic communications in Europe. The compromise gives the European Commission powers to oversee national regulatory regimes. If necessary, the Commission will have powers to require national regulatory authorities to withdraw decisions in key areas linked to the functioning of the single market. This is crucial to ensure a level playing field in Europe for telecom operators and consumers. Today's decision provides for the possibility of a genuine co-ordination of spectrum policy issues in Europe. This is crucial to avoid in the future the fragmentation of the European market that followed the 3G licence procedures. The decision adopted today maintains the momentum of reform established in Lisbon last year and by the Commission's eEurope Action Plan, towards reducing costs to European consumers and stimulating growth in the European economy.

"I am delighted by today's decision by the European Parliament. The Member States and the European Parliament have delivered on all key elements of the Lisbon agenda dealing with the Information Society by the end of this year. This agreement is a major boost for Europe's future economic growth and employment", said Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society. "Less regulation, easier market entry and a level playing field across EU are pre-requisites for the development of a world class communications and a knowledge-based European economy. An agreement on this package will send a powerful and positive message to the industry and to Europe's telecom users. We all know that the telecom sector has had a rough ride over the last year - and that prices for mobile phone and Internet use are still high and vary between Member States. Today's agreement is a big step in the right direction."

The Telecom Package will result in a comprehensive reform of the regulatory framework for electronic communications in Europe. It adapts the existing rules to take account of the convergence between telecommunications, information technology and media, applying the principle of technological neutrality in an evolving market, where the same services can be delivered over a variety of platforms and received via a range of different terminals.

The new legislation will:

  • Roll back regulation as competition becomes effective on specific markets. Ex-ante regulation will be limited to those undertakings with significant market power (i.e., dominant operators, as defined in EU competition law) on a limited number of specific markets in Member States;

  • Simplify market entry rules and stimulate more competition: today's individual licences, with their associated red tape, will be replaced by general authorisations to provide services, with individual rights-of-use confined to the granting of numbers or frequencies;

  • Strengthen the internal market through strong co-ordination mechanisms at European level. Regulators will have to consult each other and the Commission on national decisions that could affect users or operators in other Member States. The Commission will be able to require a regulator to withdraw a decision if it creates a barrier to the single market, where the decision concerns the specific markets to be regulated or the undertaking with significant market power on which regulatory obligations will be imposed;

  • Maintain the universal service obligations to avoid exclusion from the Information Society and the creation of a "digital divide";

  • Establish a policy framework in the Community for the co-ordination of policy approaches on radio spectrum, and establish a legal framework in order to ensure harmonised conditions with regard to the availability and efficient use of radio spectrum. "Although today's compromise does not provide for hard powers of intervention for the Commission on spectrum matters, it will improve co-ordination of radio spectrum matters across the EU", said Commissioner Erkki Liikanen.

  • Provide regulators with tools to cope with evolving future technology and market changes, within a defined framework of objectives and remedies. This will ensure that regulators can deal with a wide range of access and pricing issues (e.g., international mobile roaming prices, access to networks and facilities);

  • Promote European standards for interactive digital television. Member States will encourage the use of European standards (such as MHP, the Multimedia home platform specification developed by the DVB) for the enhanced set top boxes or integrated digital TV receivers that consumers need to benefit from new interactive TV services;

  • Ensure that national legal systems allow for appeals on decisions by the national regulatory authorities. National legal systems must allow for the facts or merits of the case to be considered.

The deal agreed today includes four harmonisation Directives (a Framework Directive and three specific Directives on authorisations, access and interconnection, universal service and users' rights) and a Decision on Community radio spectrum policy.

The fifth Directive in the package originally proposed by the Commission, a Directive on data protection, has incurred some procedural delay. However, it may still be possible to align the date of application for that Directive with the rest of the package if the European Parliament and the Council reach an agreement on a common text within the next few months.

For further Information, see IP/01/1679, IP/01/296, IP/00/749 and:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/topics/telecoms/index_en.htm


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