Brussels, 16 September 1999
Commission takes Belgium to Court over telecommunications legislation
On 9 September the European Commission brought an action before the European Court of Justice following on from the administrative proceedings initiated against Belgium on 2 December 1997 for failure to implement a Community directive. Belgium has still not adopted provisions concerning the cost accounting method that must be implemented by the incumbent operator, Belgacom, in accordance with the relevant EU rules.
Although the Belgian Government has begun examining the terms proposed by Belgacom for interconnection for 2000, the Commission notes that Belgium has still not determined the cost accounting method to be implemented by Belgacom with regard to the provision of voice telephony and public telecommunications networks(1).
Under Directive 90/388/EEC Belgium had to ensure that this method identified the cost elements incorporated in the interconnection charge. An accounting method of this type is essential to enable the competent national authorities and, in the event of a complaint, the Commission to judge whether the interconnection terms that telecommunications organisations must publish comply with the interconnection obligations under competition law and in particular to enable the authorities to ascertain that the interconnection charge contains only the proper cost components. Under the timetable set by Directive 96/19/EC, the measures in question should have been in place since the first half of 1997.
The Commission also decided on 28 July to refer to the Court another infringement case concerning Belgium. That one related to the to the transposal into national law of the provisions of the EU rules(2) on the method of calculation of the net cost of universal service provision and the contributions of operators to its financing on the telecommunications market.
Ten infringement cases are currently pending against Belgium in the field of telecommunications. The Commission has already decided to refer five of these cases to the Court. Referral to the Court is the third and final stage, following the letter requesting action and a reasoned opinion, in the procedure laid down in Article 226 of the EC Treaty.
The Commission is keeping a close watch on regulations and developments on the fifteen national telecommunications markets, and in particular the Belgian market.
In the four reports on progress in implementing the regulatory framework in the telecommunications sector adopted by the Commission since May 1997, Belgium was among the Member States lagging furthest behind in the transposal exercise.
Since the last report in November 1998, Belgium has made some progress. But there are still some major problems and many regulations have still to be adopted, supplemented and/or amended and published in order to bring the Belgian legislative and regulatory framework into line with the EU rules. The outgoing Commissioner with responsibility for competition, Mr Van Miert, wrote to the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr Verhofstadt, on 6 September expressing concern about the matter. The fifth report on the implementation of the EU regulatory framework in the telecommunications sector is due to be adopted by the Commission in October and presented to the Telecommunications Council on 30 November.
(1)Article 4a(4) of Commission Directive 90/388/EEC of 28 June 1990 on competition in the markets for telecommunications services (OJ L 192, 24.7.1990, p. 10), as amended by Commission Directive 96/19/EC of 13 March 1996 amending Directive 90/388/EEC with regard to the implementation of full competition in telecommunications markets (OJ L 74, 22.3.1996, p. 13). This legislation can be found on the Internet at the following address: HYPERLINK http://ec.europa.eu/dg04/lawliber/libera.htm#tele_directives http://ec.europa.eu/dg04/lawliber/libera.htm#tele_directives .
(2)Article 5 of Directive 97/33/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 June 1997 on interconnection in telecommunications with regard to ensuring universal service and interoperability through application of the principles of Open Network Provision (ONP) in conjunction with Annexes I and III to that Directive (OJ L 199, 26.7.1997, p. 32).