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Brussels, 7 December 2001

Results of Telecom Council, 6 December 2001, Brussels

(Per Haugaard)

The Telecom Council of Ministers met in Brussels on 6 December 2001. Commissioner Erkki Liikanen represented by the European Commission and the Presidency was represented by Minister Rik Daems. There follows an outline of the main results of the meeting:

Seventh Report on the Implementation of the Telecommunications Regulatory Package

Commissioner Liikanen briefly presented the Commission's Seventh Report on the Implementation of the Telecommunications Regulatory Package, giving an up-to-date analysis of the state of development of the European telecommunications market and the regulatory bottlenecks that persist in Member States. The Report is available on-line at:

Electronic Communications Package

The electronic communications package is a major overhaul of the regulatory framework for communication services, aimed at bringing more competition in this crucial sector for the European economy. It includes the following elements, all in second reading at the European Parliament:

  • Directive on a common Regulatory Framework for electronic communications networks and services

  • Directive on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities

  • Directive on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services

  • Directive on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services, and

  • Decision on a Regulatory Framework for Radio Spectrum Policy.

For more information, see:

The Belgian Presidency reported to the Council on the state of play of the negotiations with the European Parliament. The objective set by the European Council in Lisbon is to achieve adoption of this package before the end of 2001, providing this crucial sector for the European economy with a clear and simplified legal framework. Informal discussions between the Presidency, the Commission and the European Parliament will continue on Monday 10 December with a view to finding an agreement amongst these players as soon as possible.

Directive on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector

The Council reached a political agreement on the draft Directive. In particular, the Council agreed on:

  • A harmonised "opt-in" solution for unsolicited commercial e-mail (with an exception for existing customer relationships); The EP had recommended to leave the choice between an opt-in and an opt-out to the Member States. However, the Council decided that also in view of the very small number of Member States that, given this choice, would prefer an opt-out policy, the single market principle should prevail.

  • The introduction of certain conditions for the use of cookies and similar devices, namely an obligation to provide users clear and comprehensive information in advance about the purposes of such cookies and to offer them the possibility to refuse. This new provision takes over the larger part of an amendment proposed by the EP but not the concept of an opt-in;

  • The inclusion of additional language (Article 15 and a recital) regarding measures that Member States may take to safeguard public security interests or that are necessary for criminal investigations. The Council has also taken over important elements of an amendment adopted by the EP in first reading in the relevant recital. The text clarifies that such measures must remain within the boundaries of the European Convention on Human Rights, which means that they must be appropriate, proportional for the intended purpose and necessary within a democratic society.

Although this draft Directive is also part of the Electronic communications package it has incurred a procedural delay and will now go back to the European Parliament for second reading.

Council Resolution on "a common approach and specific actions in the area of network and information security"

The Council adopted a Resolution on "a common approach and specific actions in the area of network and information security". The result of a thorough discussion with Member States, it provides a timetable and roadmap of actions and measures for providing more secure and robust networks and information systems. The Council resolution called on the Commission to propose the establishment of a "cyber-security task-force". The Member States were invited to play an active role in both the elaboration of the task force's role and in the supply of adequate operational resources.

Exploitation of Public Sector Information

The Commission also provided a briefing on its October 23 Communication aiming to improve the exploitation of public sector information throughout Europe. The purpose is to remove the many barriers content companies are facing trying to develop the next generation of cross-border information services and products based on public sector information. For more information:

Internet Security

The Commission briefed the Council on the progress achieved through the Safer Internet Action Plan against illegal and harmful content on the Internet. Currently we are in the last year of the Action Plan's 4-year period. It has three main action lines:

  • Creating a safer environment by creating European network of hotlines and encouraging self-regulation;

  • Developing content filtering and rating systems; and

  • Encouraging trans-national awareness actions. By the end of the programme, more that 35 projects bringing together 125 organisations from 17 EEA countries will have been launched.

The Commission intends to propose a 2-year extension of the Action Plan (2003-2004) to be submitted to the Council early 2002.


The Presidency briefed the Council on the contents and outcome of the eGovernment Conference jointly organised by the Commission and the Presidency that took place in Brussels on 29-30 November. The Presidency outlined the broad lines of the Ministerial Declaration adopted by the participants on that occasion. This Declaration takes forward the agenda for eGovernment developments beyond the first steps of the eEurope Action Plan and does so together with accession countries. The Declaration highlights the importance of social inclusion and therefore of telecommunications regulation that can enable all Europeans to access services. It also calls for more competition, for the interoperability of a variety of network infrastructures and services, open standards and technology neutral regulation. It also reinforces commitments to the security of networks and safe access to services, and looks forward to large-scale use of electronic signatures for both public services and businesses by 2003. For the main results of the eGovernment Conference, see

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