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Six Member States face Court action for failing to put in place new rules on electronic communications

European Commission - IP/04/510   21/04/2004

Other available languages: FR DE NL EL

IP/04/510

Brussels, 21 April 2004

Six Member States face Court action for failing to put in place new rules on electronic communications

After nine months of delay and two warnings, the Commission has today decided to take six Member States - Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands - to the European Court of Justice for failing to implement fully new rules on electronics communications. At the same time progress is being made; since the Commission's first warning last autumn, Spain and Portugal have adopted the necessary national measures and so they are not included in today's decisions. The Netherlands voted its new legislation yesterday and France may finalise its national measures in the very near future. Account will be taken of such progress, but this step sends a clear signal to all Member States: businesses and citizens in their countries cannot afford further delay in these important reforms.

"The new EU-wide framework for electronic communications is a key milestone on the road to a knowledge-driven economy" said Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen. "This is recognised by Heads of State and Government and by the European Parliament, but these major reforms risk being undermined by the failure of some Member States to put their new rules in place on time. The lack of a clear legal framework is slowing investment and robbing businesses and consumers of the benefits of reform. It comes at a particularly critical time for the communications sector and for the economy in general, and therefore the Commission has been obliged to take these steps. Today's decision tells the countries concerned to put their foot on the accelerator, notify their national measures and complete the process of reform."

The new EU framework should have been in force in all Member States from July last year. It provides for regulation with a lighter touch, allows Member States to roll back rules as soon as markets are competitive and working well, and should help to ensure that services are universally available across the Union. It impacts a host of electronic communications networks and services from the phone in everyone's home or pocket to broadband and the Internet. The framework is a key part of the EU's Lisbon reforms. It creates the right conditions for further investment and competition, new jobs, more choice and better services for consumers and businesses throughout an enlarged Union. A key feature is its technology-neutral approach. This reflects the convergence between fixed and mobile services, on-line and broadcast content and a whole range of different delivery platforms. All this means that the EU has a state of the art framework which should be flexible enough to adapt to fast-changing markets.

Eight Member States failed to meet the deadline for incorporating the four elements of the new framework(1) into their national laws. The Commission launched infringement proceedings against them last year (see IP/03/1356 and IP/03/1750). Following the notification of transposition measures by Spain and, most recently, by Portugal, action against them has been closed. The Commission is aware of progress being made in Member States to finalise transposition measures most notably in the Netherlands and France but a final effort is still needed. It is ready to take into account such developments as soon as formal notification of national laws is received.

These Court actions should also send a strong signal to the new Member States, where the new framework should apply from 1 May on. The Commission has been working closely with the authorities in those countries for some time to help them prepare for implementation of the new framework. Apart from an ongoing series of visits, bilateral meetings and discussions, including in the Communications Committee, the Commission has also been assisting national regulatory authorities (NRAs) in preparing for the tasks of data gathering and the monitoring of markets.

Background

The new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services includes four measures which should have been applied from July 2003. These were the Framework, Authorisation, Access and Universal Service Directives(2).

  • The Framework Directive contains the rules and the principles that apply across all aspects of the new regulatory framework. It focuses particularly on the responsibilities and powers of national regulatory authorities (NRAs), given their key role in the new regulatory system.

  • The Authorisation Directive creates the legal framework for the operation and provision of different networks and services and the types of conditions that can be applied to those activities. One of its results is to reduce the formalities associated with starting new services, while ensuring that there is greater consistency in the way operators are treated across the Union.

  • The Access Directive sets out the principles that should govern the way national regulators deal with access issues and the often complex relationship between different operators at the wholesale level of the market. As far as possible this should be a matter for market forces, but regulators are given the powers they need to intervene if they see that the overall objectives of EU telecoms policy may not be achieved.

  • The Universal Service Directive sets out rules and principles designed to ensure that consumers continue to get a fair deal and can enjoy affordable access to the services they need across the whole of the Union.

For those Member States who have notified national measures the process of accessing their compatibility with the Community framework is on-going.

A final element of the new package is Directive 2002/58/EC on Privacy and Electronic Communications(3). Infringement proceedings have also been launched against those Member States that had not transposed that measure into national law by the 31 October 2003 deadline (see IP/03/1663 and IP/04/435). The Commission recently sent reasoned opinions to the countries concerned and will assess in the light of their responses whether action should also be taken before the European Court of Justice.

For further background information on the new regulatory framework see:

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

Recent information on the state of implementation is contained in the 2003 Implementation Report (see IP/03/1572) which is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/topics/ecomm/all_about/implementation_enforcement/annualreports/9threport/index_en.htm

Information about the progress made in the new Member States in regulatory reforms and in pursuing the objectives set out for the information society can be found in the final e-Europe+ Progress report:

http://www.emcis2004.hu/dokk/binary/30/17/3/eEurope__Final_Progress_Report.pdf

The situation in the markets of the Accession Countries is described in series of reports by IBM Consulting on behalf of the Commission, which have been prepared in co-operation with NRAs to assist them in preparing for the task of data gathering:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/topics/ecomm/all_about/international_aspects/main_areas_work/eu_enlargement/index_en.htm

(1) The Framework, Authorisation, Access and Universal Service Directives; Official Journal L 108 of 24.4.2002.

(2)Directive 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive); Directive 2002/20/EC (Authorisation Directive); Directive 2002/19/EC (Access Directive); and Directive 2002/22/EC (Universal Service Directive).

(3) Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications) (OJ L 201 of 31.7.2002, p. 37)


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