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IP/09/569

Brussels, 14 April, 2009

Telecoms: Infringement case against Latvia on independence of regulator enters second phase

The European Commission has sent Latvia a reasoned opinion, the second phase of an infringement proceeding, for not following EU rules that guarantee the independence of national telecoms regulators. The Commission wants to make sure that Latvia respects the principle of separation between regulatory and ownership functions in the telecoms sector. Latvian authorities did not address the Commission's concerns in their response to the letter of formal notice of September last year (IP/08/1343) which is why the Commission now has launched the second phase of infringement proceedings.

“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," 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 Latvian authorities to ensure that this EU legal requirement is applied with respect to the Latvian Ministry of Transport.”

Latvia's Ministry of Transport prepares decisions of the Government (Cabinet of Ministers) on the allocation of radio frequencies and management of the national numbering plan, which, according to EU telecoms rules are regulatory functions. At the same time, the Ministry of Transport is the designated State institution, which exercises activities related to ownership and control with regard to two fully State-owned communications and network providers - ‘State Information Network Agency (VITA)’ and ‘Latvian State Radio and Television Centre (LVRTC)’. EU telecoms rules require Member States that retain ownership or control of the companies that provide telecoms networks and/or services to ensure effective structural separation of the regulatory function from activities associated with ownership or control. The Court of Justice in its Judgment of 6 March 2008 in Case C-82/07 stated that, where regulatory functions are carried out, even partially, by ministries, Member States must ensure that these authorities are neither directly nor indirectly involved in activities associated with ownership or control in companies.

Background

This infringement proceeding is part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts to ensure that national regulators are independent. The Commission has launched several cases concerning the independence of national telecoms regulators and cases against four Member States (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania) are currently pending.

A detailed overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/implementation_enforcement/infringement/


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