Brussels, 29 October 2009
Telecoms: Commission asks Romania to separate regulatory and ownership functions in telecoms
The European Commission today started legal action against Romania for not respecting EU rules that require the separation between those making telecoms rules and those providing telecoms services . The Commission today sent Romania a letter of formal notice, the first phase of an infringement proceeding. This is the second infringement proceeding the Commission has launched against Romania over the independence of its telecoms regulator. The first case, also ongoing, was launched in January 2009 over the regulator's dismissal ( ).
“Making sure that government departments with regulatory tasks are not at the same time involved in the ownership and control of state-owned telecoms companies is one of the principles that guarantee independence and impartiality of national telecoms regulators. It also ensures regulation in the interests of consumers and of effective competition, the key ingredient of for Europe's telecoms leadership, " said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. “This principle must be respected in all cases where ministries carry out telecoms regulatory tasks. I therefore call on the Romanian authorities to ensure that this EU legal requirement is applied to the Romanian Ministry of Communications and Information Society.”
The Commission today reiterated its call on Romania to make sure its telecoms regulators had no business interest in the telecoms market. The Romanian Ministry of Communications and Information Society has specific tasks, which EU telecoms rules consider to be of a regulatory nature . These regulatory tasks include the allocation and assignment of radio frequencies, in particular adopting the national frequency plan and preparing government decisions relating to radio spectrum management.
At the same time, the Romanian Ministry of Communications and Information Society also exercises ownership and control activities in two companies providing telecoms networks and/or services (Romtelecom S.A. and S.N.R. S.A. – 'Radiocom'). Under EU telecoms rules, Member States that retain ownership or control companies providing these services must ensure effective structural separation of the regulatory function from activities associated with ownership or control.
The European Court of Justice, in its Judgment of 6 March 2008 ( ), stated that where regulatory functions are even partially carried out by ministries, EU countries must ensure that these authorities are neither directly nor indirectly involved in activities associated with ownership or control in companies.
This infringement proceeding is part of the Commission’s efforts to ensure that national regulators act impartial and independent.
This is the second infringement case that the Commission has launched relating to the independence of the Romanian telecoms regulator. The first infringement was launched in January 2009 ( ) following t he Prime Minister's decision in 2008 to remove the president of the national telecoms regulator and then, following a court ruling suspending this decision, the decision to restructure and rename this authority. In response, the Romanian Government passed an emergency ordinance in March 2009 to introduce additional guarantees for the independence of the telecoms regulator. However, t his infringement proceeding is still pending as the emergency act has not yet been confirmed by the Romanian Parliament, which would give the telecoms regulator a stable legal base.
The Commission launched several other infringement proceedings concerning the independence of national telecoms regulators and three are currently pending. The cases against Lithuania ( ) and Latvia ( ), relate to the separation of regulatory and ownership functions in telecoms, while the case against Slovakia ) relates to the regulator's dismissal .
A detailed overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at: