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Brussels, 8th March 2004

Commission welcomes Member States' renewed political commitment to electronic communications industry

Telecommunications Ministers meeting in Brussels have today signalled their confidence in the improved prospects for the electronic communications sector. In a wide ranging discussion Ministers highlighted the importance of a mobile, on-line and inclusive information society to drive growth and deliver new jobs and improved productivity. This is their message to the Spring European Council. In wide ranging conclusions, the Council examined the state of the telecommunications sector, the mid-term review of the eEurope 2005 Action Plan, the fight against spam and the development of a global information society. The upbeat mood reflected the announcements from industry over recent weeks of a range of new mobile data services and devices and continuing strong growth in broadband which now reaches around 6% of the EU population (a total of 20 million lines). At the same time Council highlighted the need for rapid implementation of the new legislative framework for electronic communications and identified a range of detailed steps to build the information society.

Reacting to the results of today's Council, Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner, Erkki Liikanen said: "There are signs of returning confidence and of a new political commitment to push forward with eEurope. This remains a key sector to drive productivity growth in the economy and fuel innovation. Obviously, the first test of that new commitment must be the full and effective implementation of the new regulatory framework for electronic communications in all new and existing Member States. But I also want progress on eEurope and the implementation of national broadband strategies. Our discussions have identified the next steps needed to support high speed mobile services and to ensure that broadband networks are extended to cover the whole of the Union. We have agreed next steps in the national and international fight against spam in order to prevent it undermining consumer and business confidence. There are still things to be done, but we have moved a further step in the right direction".

Telecoms Ministers identified a range of issues requiring further action from stakeholders, the Council and the Commission in order to achieve the full potential offered by new services and the wider uptake of information and communication technologies. Electronic communications as such are the biggest contributor to labour productivity growth in the Union.

In response to these challenges, the Commission confirmed an ambitious agenda for the Union during the first half of the year. This includes:

  • Defining with national regulatory authorities in the Member States the range of remedies which may be applied to ensure effective competition in electronic communications markets.

  • Identifying with stakeholders in the Mobile Technology Platform research priorities and developing a debate about the interoperability priorities for the sector.

  • Creating a High Level Group to look at digital rights management and a new Forum on the Digital Divide.

  • Reporting in May 2004 on the Member States' national broadband strategies and in July 2004 on the challenges to 3G deployment.

  • Working with partner countries and other stakeholders to pursue international action against spam and, in relation to the global information society, to actively prepare the second stage of the World Summit on the Information Society.

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