Brussels, 24 June 2010
Telecoms: Commission welcomes new Slovak rules on independence of telecoms regulator; ends legal action
The European Commission has welcomed changes to Slovakia's law guaranteeing the independence of national telecoms regulator Telekomunikačný úrad Slovenskej Republiky (TÚSR), and closed the infringement proceeding against Slovakia on this issue opened in May 2009 (see IP/09/775). The Commission is satisfied that Slovakia's law now respects the requirement under EU law that the head of the national telecoms regulator can only be dismissed in very limited circumstances. This independence is essential to ensure that the regulator can make impartial assessments and decisions.
According to EU telecoms rules, national authorities can only remove the heads of their telecoms regulatory bodies in very restricted circumstances (such as for example long-term illness preventing from carrying out their duties, being found guilty of a crime, etc). These limitations safeguard the independence and impartiality of the regulators and so help to ensure the stability of the national telecoms market.
The Commission had been concerned that in Slovakia the Parliament and the Government had too much discretion to remove the head or vice-chair of the national telecoms regulatory authority. The Commission's concerns were triggered in December 2008 when the Slovak Parliament dismissed the chairman of TÚSR before the end of his term in office. As a result, the Commission launched an infringement proceeding against the country by sending a letter of formal notice in May 2009 (see IP/09/775).
After Slovakia received the Commission's letter of formal notice, the country committed to modify its national legislation to comply with EU telecoms rules. The Slovak Parliament adopted the modifications to the Slovak Electronic Communications Act in February 2010 and the changes entered into force in April 2010. The amendments guarantee that TÚSR's head can be dismissed in only very restricted circumstances, for example if they hold a position in a political party or movement or in another public institution, if they are employed by a telecoms network operator or service provider, if they are sentenced for a crime or if they are not performing their duties for at least six consecutive months. The Commission has therefore decided to close the infringement case.
The original rules on independence of national regulators date from 2002. These rules were updated and reinforced in the 2009 EU telecoms package. The updated rules require Member States to eliminate any political interference in the national regulators' day-to-day operations and to ensure additional protection against any arbitrary dismissal of their heads.
In 2006, the Commission launched a separate infringement proceeding against Slovakia related to the independence of its telecoms regulator. At that time, the country was not respecting EU rules that require Member States to separate public bodies supervising telecoms operators from those providing telecoms services (also known as "structural separation"). Slovakia complied with EU rules in this respect and the infringement proceeding was closed in January 2008.
The Commission has launched several other cases concerning the independence of national regulators (Romania IP/10/519 and IP/09/165, Slovenia IP/10/321) or effective structural separation (Romania IP/09/1624, Lithuania IP/09/1040, Latvia IP/09/569 and IP/10/321). These cases are currently pending.
A detailed overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at: