Brussels, 5 May 2010
Telecoms: Commission seeks further information from Romania on regulator's independence
The European Commission has decided to send a second formal request for information to Romania on the independence of its telecoms regulator ANCOM (Autoritatea Nationala pentru Administrare si Reglementare in Comunicatii). The Commission's request is prompted by concerns that, as far as the Commission is aware, Romania still does not have a law which guarantees the independence of the regulator, and that the Government can use emergency legislation to restructure this body. The information request is in the form of a second letter of formal notice under infringement procedures laid down by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 258 of the TFEU). A separate infringement procedure against Romania over the independence of its telecoms regulator, concerning separation of public bodies supervising telecoms operators and those providing telecoms services (see IP/09/1624), is still pending.
EU rules to establish a single European telecoms market require national regulators to be independent and impartial so as to ensure that telecoms rules are applied in practice in a fair, objective and non-discriminatory manner.
The Commission has decided to send a second letter of formal notice because it has concerns that Romania may not guarantee the independence of the national telecoms regulator, as required by EU telecoms rules. The Commission has specific concerns about two points in particular:
The Commission had expressed its concerns about the independence of the Romanian telecoms regulator in a first letter of formal notice on 29 January 2009 (IP/09/165). This was triggered by a governmental emergency decree of September 2008 which restructured the regulator and dismissed its president. These actions were carried out despite a court order suspending the removal decision. The Romanian telecoms regulator has been restructured by the Government four times by way of emergency legislation in the past five years, whilst a governmental department exercises ownership and control activities in companies providing telecoms networks and/or services.
In April 2009, the Romanian authorities informed the Commission that the Government had adopted a new emergency act (Emergency Ordinance 22/2009) reorganising the telecoms regulator as the National Regulatory and Administration Authority for Communications – ANCOM. However, as far as the Commission is aware, the act has not yet been approved by the national parliament. This creates uncertainty around the regulator and leaves the independence of Romania's national regulatory authority open to question, which has prompted the Commission to send the second letter of formal notice.
Romania now has two months to reply to the European Commission's request for information. If the Romanian authorities fail to satisfy the Commission's concerns within this period, the Commission may send Romania a formal request, in the form of a reasoned opinion under TFEU infringement procedures, to amend its legislation so as to guarantee the independence of the telecoms regulator in accordance with EU telecoms rules.
The present case is based on the incorrect transposition and application of Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (Framework Directive). The EU telecoms rules adopted in November 2009 (MEMO/09/513), and to be fully implemented by May 2011, reinforce national telecoms regulators' independence by requiring Member States to eliminate any political interference in their day-to-day duties and by adding further protection against arbitrary dismissal of the heads of national regulators.
A separate infringement case relating to the independence of the telecoms regulator was launched by the Commission against Romania in October 2009 (IP/09/1624) for not respecting EU rules that require Member States to separate public bodies supervising telecoms operators and those providing telecoms services (so-called structural separation).
Apart from the Romanian cases, the Commission has launched several cases concerning the independence of national telecoms regulators (Slovakia IP/09/775, Slovenia IP/10/321) or effective structural separation (Lithuania IP/09/1040, Latvia IP/09/569, IP/10/321). These cases are currently pending.
A detailed overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at: