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IP/09/775

Brussels, 14 May 2009

Independence of Telecoms Regulators: Commission launches infringement case against Slovakia

The European Commission today expressed concerns that Slovakia does not adequately protect the independence of its national telecoms regulator (TÚSR). The Slovak Parliament dismissed the chairman of TÚSR on 4 December 2008. This procedure, and the rules that allow it, do not comply with EU rules that say national laws must guarantee the independence of the regulator from interference that could affect the impartiality of its decisions. The letter of formal notice that the Commission sent today is the first stage of an infringement proceeding against a Member State not complying with EU rules which can eventually lead to a case before the European Court of Justice.

National regulators are the backbone of the EU telecoms rules and are central to fair regulation in Europe's single telecoms market," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I am very worried that the chairman of an EU Member State's telecoms regulator has been removed before the end of the normal term of office and where the Slovak Government and Parliament is left with de facto unlimited discretion to act."

According to EU telecoms rules that safeguard the independence and impartiality of national regulators, governments and parliaments are only permitted to intervene to remove the chairman or vice-chairman in very restricted circumstances and having very serious reasons for such an action. After examining information provided by the Slovak authorities, the Commission considers that EU telecoms laws have not been correctly transposed in the areas of Slovakia's Act on Electronic Communications that cover the possible dismissal of the chairman and vice-chairman of the national telecoms regulator. The Commission has now sent a letter of formal notice to Slovakia, the first stage of an infringement proceeding.

Following a government proposal, the Slovak Parliament dismissed the chairman of TÚSR, the national telecoms regulator, on 4 December 2008. The Slovak government said the regulator had failed to fulfill its tasks in accordance with the national legal framework and with the goals and principles of the national policy for electronic communications during a call for tender for digital terrestrial frequencies launched on 20 August 2008. The Commission sent two letters, in December 2008 and January 2009, asking for clarifications about the dismissal procedure and justification, so that it could assess compliance with EU telecoms rules.

Slovakia has two months to reply to the letter of formal notice sent today. If the Commission receives no reply, or if the observations presented by the Slovak government are not satisfactory, the Commission may issue a reasoned opinion (the second stage in an infringement proceeding). If Slovakia still fails to fulfil its obligations under EU law after that, the Commission will refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Background

Apart from the case against Slovakia, the Commission has opened earlier two other cases against Member States where very broad terms of dismissal granted by the national legislation did not guaranteed the independence of the national telecoms regulators. Of these, the case against Poland (IP/08/142) has been referred to the European Court of Justice by the European Commission in July 2008. The case against Romania, opened in January 2009 (IP/09/165), is ongoing.

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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