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Digital Agenda: Commission acts against Lithuania and Romania to ensure impartial regulation of telecoms

European Commission - IP/10/1557   24/11/2010

Other available languages: FR DE LT RO

IP/10/1557

Brussels, 24 November 2010

Digital Agenda: Commission acts against Lithuania and Romania to ensure impartial regulation of telecoms

The European Commission has decided to refer Lithuania to the EU's Court of Justice for failing to comply with EU rules that require a clear separation between entities which make telecoms rules and those providing telecoms services. At the same time, the Commission has sent a formal request to Romania to comply with the same rules. This separation is essential to preserve the impartiality of national telecoms regulators, guaranteeing fair regulation for consumers and businesses and maintaining competition. The request to Romania takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. If Romania fails to comply within two months, the Commission may decide to refer it to the Court of Justice.

Lithuania

According to EU telecoms rules (Directive 2002/21/EC), government departments with regulatory tasks cannot at the same time be involved in the ownership and control of state-owned telecoms companies. This is an essential principle to guarantee the independence and impartiality of national telecoms regulators, and thus ensure fair regulation in the interests of consumers and of effective competition.

In Lithuania, the Ministry of Communications is responsible for governmental decisions approving national radio frequency allocations and universal service rules. This Ministry also controls the state-owned company "Lithuanian Radio and Television Centre", which provides telecoms services, such as wireless broadband access.

In response to the Commission's reasoned opinion of June 2009 (IP/09/1040), the Lithuanian authorities transferred the regulatory function to the Ministry of Internal Affairs which, however, also controls a telecoms service provider. After the Commission requested further clarification, the Lithuanian Government transferred the telecoms regulatory functions back to the Ministry of Communications. Since Lithuania has not complied with the requirements of EU rules on structural separation, the Commission has decided today to refer Lithuania to the EU's Court of Justice.

Romania

While the Romanian Ministry of Communications and Information Society carries out regulatory tasks like the allocation and assignment of radio frequencies (e.g. adopting the national frequency plan and preparing government decisions relating to radio spectrum management), it 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'). Despite regular discussions on this issue, the country has still not changed its rules on structural separation, and the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Romania requesting it to do so.

The Commission has decided to close a separate infringement proceeding opened in January 2009 over the lack of independence of the national telecoms regulator following the removal of its president in 2008 (IP/10/519). The Romanian Parliament has adopted a new legal framework which strengthens the independence of the telecoms regulator.

Background

These infringement proceedings are part of the European Commission’s efforts to ensure that national telecoms regulators are independent. Article 3(2) of the Framework Directive 2002/21/EC says that Member States that retain ownership or control companies providing telecommunications services must ensure effective structural separation of the regulatory function from activities associated with ownership or control. These rules further provide that Member States shall ensure that national regulators exercise their power impartially and transparently.

The telecoms rules adopted in November 2009 (see MEMO/09/513) further reinforced national telecoms regulators' independence by eliminating political interference in their day-to-day duties and by adding further protection against arbitrary dismissal for the heads of national regulators. Under these new rules, which are due to be implemented by Member States no later than 25 May 2011, it will be possible to dismiss the head of the national regulatory authority only if he/she no longer fulfils the conditions laid down in advance in national law. Such decisions must furthermore contain a statement of reasons and be made public at the time of dismissal.

An overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

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

For more information on EU infringement procedures: see MEMO/10/605.


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