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Brussels, 6th April 2011

Digital Agenda: Latvia ensures independence of national telecoms regulators; Commission closes infringement case

Consumers and businesses in Latvia now enjoy better safeguards against unfair competition on telecoms markets following steps taken by Latvia to comply with EU rules on the independence of the national telecoms regulators, in response to an infringement case opened by the European Commission. In particular, Latvia has now ensured a clear separation between the bodies which make telecoms rules and those which provide telecoms services by transferring telecoms regulatory functions regarding radio frequencies and numbering from the Ministry of Transport to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.. This separation, also known as structural separation, is essential to preserve the impartiality of national telecoms regulators, guaranteeing fair regulation for consumers and businesses and maintaining competition. The Commission has therefore closed its infringement case against Latvia, which it opened in 2008 (see IP/08/1343)

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 particular, these rules avoid potential conflicts of interest that could arise if the same authority not only regulates telecoms markets but also controls state-owned operators that offer telecoms services.

The Commission opened the infringement case because Latvia’s Ministry of Transport, which was responsible for radio frequency and numbering management, also exercised ownership and control functions in state-owned communications network and service providers.

These telecoms regulatory tasks have now been transferred from the Ministry of Transport to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. This new Ministry has also taken over from the Ministry of Transport the supervision of the Electronic Communications Office – the specialised governmental telecoms agency responsible for the technical management, planning and enforcement regarding radio frequencies.

As a result, Latvia's Ministry of Transport, which continues to control the relevant state-owned electronic communications undertakings, is no longer directly or indirectly responsible for telecoms regulatory activities in Latvia.

Apart from the Latvian case, the Commission has launched several cases concerning the independence of national telecoms regulators or effective structural separation. Cases are still pending concerning Lithuania (see IP/10/1557), Romania (see IP/10/1557 and IP/10/519) and Slovenia (see IP/10/321).

An overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/220.

Digital Agenda website:

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