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Brussels, 9 June 2004

Telecoms Council, Luxembourg, June 10-11, 2004


The EU Telecommunications Ministers will meet on the morning of
June 10 in Luxembourg. Commissioner Erkki Liikanen will represent the European Commission.

Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a multiannual programme to make digital content in Europe more accessible, usable and exploitable (e-Content Plus)

The Council is expected to reach political agreement on the Commission’s proposed four-year eContentplus programme. The Commission proposed a budget for the programme of €163 million. It builds on the existing eContent programme, which finishes at the end of 2004 and has supported the development of multimedia content to the tune of €100 million. The new programme supports the development of new content and services with a particular pan-European dimension. The programme adds value by providing support in areas, including public sector information, which might not be served if left to market forces alone. The types of projects supported will help to remove barriers for content producers created by languages, multiple standards, cultural differences and different administrative traditions. The focus is on using the latest technology to enable information from different systems to be combined - irrespective of its original format, language or location – and tailored to user needs. The European Parliament will discuss the proposal in a 2nd reading after the elections in June.

Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a multiannual community programme on promoting safer use of the Internet and new online technologies (Safer Internet Plus)

The Council is expected to agree a general approach on the Commission’s proposed Safer Internet Plus programme pending a first reading in the European Parliament. The new multi-annual programme promotes the safer use of the Internet and new online technologies. It builds on the success of the existing programme, which comes to an end this year and foresees an increased budget of
€50 million over four years. It will support projects that combat illegal and harmful internet content. It also includes new media, such as videos, and new issues, such as “spam”. It focuses more closely on end users: parents, teachers and children. The programme has four action lines: fighting illegal content; tackling unwanted and harmful content (including spam); promoting a safer environment, and awareness-raising.

Safer Internet plus is a follow-up to the existing Safer Internet programme, running from 1999 to 2004 with a budget of €38 million. This has supported 12 “hotline” services, 13 rating and filtering projects, and 12 awareness projects. It has involved more than 136 organisations in 17 European countries.

One practical example of the results that the initial programme has helped to achieve is the involvement of EU sponsored hotlines in tackling Internet-based child pornography. INHOPE (the Association of Internet Hotlines supported by the EU) played a crucial role in triggering a worldwide investigation which led in September 2003 to the cracking of a global child pornography ring involving more than 25,000 Internet users in 166 countries.

eEurope 2005 (National Broadband Strategies and the updating of the eEurope Action Plan)

The Council is expected to consider together the Commission’s recent report on the Member States’ national broadband strategies and its recent updating of the EU’s eEurope Action Plan. On broadband Council should note the progress made. All EU 15 Members have now established national broadband strategies, focusing particularly on getting broadband out into remote and under served areas and the remaining Member States will propose strategies by the end of the year. The Council will call for implementation, monitoring of progress and periodic updating of those strategies. For eEurope, the Council is expected to note that this updating exercise aims a fine tuning the action plan and improving implementation. It will ask the Commission to report back on progress on broadband in the first half of 2006.

Background: Broadband Stategies. The Council will be looking at the Commission’s Broadband Communication which assesses the National Broadband Strategies put in place by the EU 15 Member States (see IP/04/626). Widespread availability and use of broadband by the end of 2005 is a key eEurope goal. Broadband is a key enabler for high speed Internet access, opening up the possibility for new content and services in the home, and important productivity gains for business and government. Today, broadband is growing rapidly. The number of connections in the EU grew 80% in the year to January 2004 and the level of connections now amounts to around 6% of the population. This growth is faster than the US. Rapid growth in the past two years is clearly linked to growing competition, with the highest take up in countries where competition has been strongest and consequently prices have come down.

Background: eEurope 2005 Action Plan. This Commission has recently updated the eEurope 2005 action plan (COM(2004) 380 final), adopted in the first half of 2002. This follows a broad consultation to assess how the eEurope approach could be reinforced, while keeping the principle objectives in place. Fifteen additional actions are proposed complementing and completing the existing ones. The key actions include the launch of a Digital Divide Forum, research and pilot projects supporting on-line public services, work on digital rights management and m-payments, identifying new targets for using technology to improve inclusion, and monitoring of the agreed eEurope benchmarks.

Proposal for a Council Decision on the three Stakeholders' representatives to the Management Board of the European Network and Information Security Agency(*) (Legal Basis proposed by the Commission: Article 6 of the Regulation (EC)Nº460/2004)

The Council is expected to appoint the members and alternates proposed by the Commission to the Management Board of the new European Network and Information Security Agency. The legal framework for the agency was agreed last November (see IP/03/1577) and its location in Greece was confirmed by the European Council last December. The nuts and bolts of putting the Agency into place are now being followed and include the appointment of three Stakeholder representatives to the agencies Management Board.

The Agency's key tasks once it up and running later this year will be:

  • advising and assisting the Commission and the Member States on information security and in their dialogue with industry to address security-related problems in hardware and software,
  • collecting and analysing data on security incidents in Europe and emerging risks,
  • promoting risk assessment and risk management methods to enhance our capability to deal with information security threats, and
  • raising awareness and co-operation between different actors in the information security field, notably by developing public / private partnerships in this field.

The agency should foster a culture of security in Europe. The Agency’s Management Board is composed of one representative of each Member State, three representatives of the Commission and three stakeholder representatives, proposed by the Commission and appointed by the Council, without voting rights.

Follow-up of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS)

The Presidency is expected to brief Council on the state of the preparations for the 2nd stage of the World Summit on the Information Society, which will take place in Tunisia from 16 to 18 November 2005. The first preparatory conference for the WSIS will take place at the end of June.

Background: The first session of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) was held in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003. The WSIS was the first global event on the Information Society, and the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action adopted at the Geneva Summit form the basis for a common approach to the Information Society shared by all UN Member States. It is inspired by “a common vision and understanding of the Information Society”. The second phase of the WSIS will transform these principles into tangible results, based on the Action Plan.

The EU advocates focusing on e-strategies and enabling regulatory frameworks, priority fields such as eGovernment, eHealth, eLearning and on other initiatives related to research and to education networks. It views the role of public/private partnerships as vital to successfully implementing the Action Plan. At the first preparatory committee meeting, to be held in Hammamet from 24 to 26 June 2004, decisions will be taken on the nature and priorities of the preparatory process for the Tunis phase. On 28 May 2004, the EU submitted a contribution to the WSIS Executive Secretariat containing its views on these issues (see|1&c_type=all)|.

Open mobile platforms

Under Any Other Business, the Commission will raise the issue of open mobile platforms and importance of High Speed Mobile Data Services. The rapid growth in mobile communications has had an enormous impact, in Europe and globally. Penetration levels in Europe are over 80% and rising; at the end of 2003 there were more than 1.35 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, compared with only 15 million in 1991. The latest generation of mobile and wireless technologies will combine the benefits of broadband access with mobility. Increasingly, mobile phones will be used to access the internet, shop and pay on-line, and receive and play music and video. This presents the possibility of significant productivity gains for business and governments.

While market forces will be the primary drivers of these new services, the Commission will highlight its work with a range of stakeholders to assess other steps needed from industry or policy makers to ensure that mobile services flourish. A Communication later this summer will prioritise the actions needed in areas such as: research and development; interoperability of networks, services, content and handsets; the legal and economic environment for the provision of content and applications; spectrum issues and other policy challenges.

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