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Brussels, 8 July 2008

Commission welcomes European Parliament vote to strengthen the EU's Single Market for Telecoms but important questions remain open

Yesterday evening, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) of the European Parliament voted on the European Commission's proposals to reform the EU Telecom rules. Even though the final view of the European Parliament will only be known once the Plenary has voted on the Commission proposal – which is expected to take place on 3 September 2008 – the votes in ITRE and IMCO are important steps towards shaping the final legislative texts to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.

"I welcome the positive signal of progress that the European Parliament has given with its vote yesterday. The EU Telecoms Reform is of great importance for the strengthening of a Single Telecoms Market to the benefit of both operators and consumers," said Viviane Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner. "I would like to thank the responsible rapporteurs in the ITRE Committee, Catherine Trautmann (France, PES) and Pilar del Castillo Vera (Spain, EPP-ED) and in the IMCO Committee, Malcolm Harbour (United Kingdom, EPP-ED), for their constructive work. Consensus on the Telecoms Package is needed to strengthen effective competition on the telecoms markets and the competitiveness of the EU as a whole. Yesterday evening's endorsement of functional separation as a new tool for telecoms regulation is therefore good news as it will enable national regulators to address cases of persistent competition bottlenecks.
On spectrum reform, some progress has been made, even though I would have wished the Parliament Committees to be more ambitious. Radio spectrum is a very valuable economic and societal resource, and a more efficient and consistent management of spectrum would help us achieving a Europe with 'broadband for all'. I will therefore continue to work on this with the European Parliament and the Council in the coming weeks so that further progress can be made before September.
Finally, many questions remain open as regards the new institutional structure that, in view of the Parliament Committees, should be responsible for EU Telecoms regulation from 2010 onwards. I welcome the good intentions behind the idea of creating a new Body of European Regulators for Telecommunications (BERT). However, businesses and consumers in Europe are interested in results, not in lengthy procedures. I have doubts whether BERT and the heavy Article 7-procedure now created will be able to deliver coherent regulatory responses to the regulatory obstacles still far too present in Europe's single telecoms market. Questions remain especially as regards the financing of the new Body as well as its capability to arrive swiftly and efficiently at common positions. Here, a lot of further work is indispensable."

The main outcomes of yesterday's vote:

  • The ITRE Committee has accepted a number of the Commission's key proposals, including the addition of functional separation to the toolbox of national regulators to ensure competition. In yesterday's vote the Parliamentary Committee agreed that national regulators should be able to require a dominant operator to separate its access network infrastructure and service arms, in order to give other competitors a fair chance to offer services using that infrastructure.
  • The Parliament Committees also voted in favour of strengthening the cooperation of national telecoms regulators by creating a new body composed of independent telecoms regulators (called Body of European Regulators for Telecommunications). This new structure has substantially less powers than proposed by the Commission. In contrast to the Commission's proposal, the new Body is also not mainly financed from the EU budget, but will have to be paid, by 2/3, by national taxpayers. Finally, the new Body is also not combined with the existing European Network Information and Security Agency (ENISA), as had been proposed by the Commission in order to create synergies and avoid the creation of an additional EU agency. Instead the Committees voted to prolong the mandate of this Crete-based agency until 2012.
  • As far as consumers are concerned, the IMCO Committee has accepted most of the Commission's proposals to enhance transparency on pricing and conditions and endorsed the better deal on number portability. This will enable consumers to shop around for competitive offers. Disabled users will also benefit from better access to telecoms services such as 112 or TV channels' subtitles. However, one of the Commission's key proposals to oblige operators to warn consumers when their private data are compromised, has been watered down.

The European Commission tabled its proposals for the reform of the Telecoms Reform Package in November 2007 (IP/07/1677). Since then, the Council of Telecoms Ministers has had a chance to express its views on the Commission proposals (MEMO/07/522, MEMO/08/384); it is now for the European Parliament to give its views.

Next steps:

3 September 2008: Vote on the EU Telecoms Reform Proposals in the European Parliament's plenary.

27 November 2008: the Council of Telecoms Ministers could, under French Presidency pave the way for finalising the legislative texts.

For more information:

Parliament's Press Release on yesterday's vote:

"Progress Made on the EU Telecoms Reform Package", Statement by EU Commissioner Reding after the Council of EU Telecoms Ministers on 12 June

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