Brussels, 26 June 2008
The implementation of EU Telecom rules continues to improve across the EU. For the first time, the European Commission has been able to close an infringement procedure against Bulgaria, following steps taken to ensure the independence of the national authorities responsible for regulation in the field of telecoms. The 2002 EU Telecoms Framework Directive requires that national regulators should be legally and functionally independent. The Commission also welcomes a decision by the German Federal Administrative Court confirming the powers of the German telecoms regulator (the Bundesnetzagentur) in the mobile termination market, which brings German regulatory practice in line with EU Telecoms rules. According to the Access Directive, which is part of the 2002 EU Telecoms rules, national regulatory authorities need to have clearly defined powers to regulate also the market for mobile termination rates.
“Independent and well equipped national regulatory authorities are central to the effective carrying-out of EU Telecoms rules,” said Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner. “I am especially satisfied that we have been able to close the case against Bulgaria following substantial changes regarding the Bulgarian regulatory authorities. A malfunctioning national regulator is clearly a burden to both operators and consumers, and the changes in Bulgaria are therefore very good news. I also welcome that the legal situation in Germany has been clarified so that the Bundesnetzagentur is now able to regulate mobile termination rates in accordance with EU Telecoms law.”
The European Commission has closed the case against Bulgaria since the problems relating to the independence of the national regulator and the decision-making process have now been resolved.
The Bulgarian case was opened in November 2007 due to an apparent conflict of interest: the Chairman of a state body with some regulatory powers (the State Agency for Information Technology and Communications) was at the same time a member of the incumbent operator's board. This threatened undermining the independence of regulatory decisions. Moreover, the board of the Bulgarian regulator, the Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC) was not fully staffed, causing regulatory decisions to be significantly delayed or postponed.
The case has now been closed following the appointment by the Bulgarian government of a new Chairman to the CRC, as well as the resignation of the Chairman of the state body from the incumbent's board in December 2007.
In Germany, the Commission has also been able to provisionally suspend an infringement procedure started in October 2004 because legal uncertainty existed regarding the powers of the German telecoms regulator (the Bundesnetzagentur) to impose appropriate regulation on call termination markets (in particular, the rates operators charge each other for connecting calls between their networks). On 18 June 2008, the German Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) published a decision that approved the German regulator’s decision to regulate termination rates of all operators. The Commission is currently analysing the reasoning of the Court's decision in order to decide whether all legal uncertainty has now been removed. A final decision on whether the case should be closed definitively will be taken later this year.
A detailed overview of the state of infringement proceedings is available on the website of the European Commission's Information Society and Media Directorate-General: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/implementation_enforcement/infringement/