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Brussels, 28 June 2001
Results of Telecommunications Council of 27 June 2001
EU Telecommunication Ministers met yesterday in Luxembourg. The main points on the agenda were a discussion of the outstanding Commission proposals contained in the Telecom Package, Third Generation Mobile Communications (3G) and the ".eu". A brief presentation of the Commission's recent communication on network security was provided during lunch.
1. Telecom Package
Yesterday's Council meeting was an important step towards the goal of the European Councils of Lisbon, Stockholm and Gothenburg of having this package adopted by the end of this year.
A series of important decisions were taken in this regard. Notably, Member States agreed common orientations on the directive on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services, and the decision on spectrum policy.
Regarding the Directive on universal service, the Council reached a common position. The scope of universal service obligations was agreed to cover narrowband access to the Internet. Another main issue discussed was so-called "must-carry" obligations (Article 26) i.e. for the transmission of specified radio and television broadcast channels and services. In this regard, it was agreed that must carry obligations imposed by Member States should be reasonable, proportionate and transparent in the light of clearly defined general interest objectives and could where appropriate entail a provision for proportionate remuneration.
On the draft Decision on radio spectrum policy, following yesterday's Common orientation, the first reading by the European Parliament is scheduled for early July. This Decision, once adopted, will allow discussing radio spectrum issues at Community level where Community interests and policies are concerned. As the recent example of 3G shows, it is urgent to establish such a policy platform. The mechanisms foreseen in the Decision will allow for a greater co-ordination harmonisation on spectrum usage in the Community. The Decision will also contribute to achieve greater transparency on the usage of spectrum. This information is essential to all players who have to rely on the usage of radio spectrum when planning new and innovative services. The decision confirms the mechanism the Community uses to defend its interest in international negotiations such as for instance the World Radio-communciation Conferences (WRC).
Important progress was also made on the proposal on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector The issue of unsolicited e-mail (spam), (Article 13) was deferred to after the first reading of the European Parliament. The Presidency nevertheless noted a qualified majority in favour of the Commission's proposal in favour of the so-called opt-in solution throughout the EU.
Another controversial issue regarding this proposal was traffic data retention (Articles 6 and 15). On this issue, Member States unanimously agreed to add a phrase on traffic data retention in recital 10 of the directive. The Commission took note of this decision and referred to its initial proposal on this issue (which allows traffic date retention only for a period necessary for billing purposes).
Member States welcomed the Communication on this issue by the Commission of March. Member States also endorsed the efforts undertaken by the Commission and industry players in the context of the on-going dialogue established by this Communication.
3. ".eu" Top Level Domain
The Council agreed on the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on the implementation of the .eu Top Level Domain. At the Stockholm European Council it was agreed to take the necessary measures to ensure that he .eu top level domain would be available to users as soon as possible. The decision of the Council yesterday is an important step in that direction. The draft regulation avoid a priori controls, provides for a period of sun-rise for holders of prior rights and for public bodies. The draft also acknowledges the concerns expressed by certain Member States on geographical and geo-political names to either exclude such names or to register them under a specific second level domain. The Council and the European Parliament will now work closely together towards the adoption of the Regulation. Once the Regulation is adopted the Committee established by the Regulation would need to be set up, the selection of the Registry should be completed and an agreement between the Registry and ICANN should be finalised before the Registry can become operational.