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Telecoms Reform: Parliament vote paves way for Single Telecoms Market in Europe

European Commission - MEMO/08/581   24/09/2008

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MEMO/08/581

Brussels, 24 September 2008

Telecoms Reform: Parliament vote paves way for Single Telecoms Market in Europe

Today the European Parliament in its plenary session voted on the European Commission's proposals of November 2007 to reform the EU Telecom rules, in place since 2003. The EU Telecoms Reform aims to create a Single EU Telecoms Market with improved rights for consumers and businesses by reinforcing competition and investment and boosting the take-up of cross-border services and wireless high-speed broadband for all.

"Today's vote is good news for European consumers," said Viviane Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner. "The European Parliament has today voted in favour of a strong and competitive Single Telecoms Market without borders for cross-border services, competition and investment in Europe. This will level the playing field for telecoms operators in Europe, enhance legal certainty, and broaden consumer choice."

“Yesterday, the European Commission had to propose new rules to bring down the excessive prices of SMS and data roaming in the EU (IP/08/1386). These proposals will provide a fast cure to one of the most dramatic symptoms of the lack of a single telecoms market under which European companies and consumers are suffering at the moment. Today, the European Parliament has gone an important step further by proposing to tackle once and for all the root of the problem: by paving the way for a single market in regulatory terms.

"I welcome in particular the fact that, after an intense debate, the European Parliament today voted in favour of establishing a European telecoms regulator. Although the new body is smaller than proposed by the Commission – it will not have any responsibility for network security, which I regret – the Parliament's amendments have made sure that the new European telecoms regulator will be fit for purpose, namely to deal efficiently with the remaining business obstacles and consumer problems in the single market. I welcome in particular that Parliament has confirmed that the new body will be financed from the EU budget in order to strengthen its independence and to ensure equality among national regulators. The European Parliamentarians also ensured that the new European telecoms regulator will be able to operate independently in the interest of everyone in the EU while at the same time being sufficiently close to the market. The proposal that half of the European telecoms regulator's staff should be seconded from national telecoms regulators, thus working alongside experts which the new European body would recruit itself, is a very constructive improvement on the Commission's initial proposal that I fully support."

"Although work is still needed on the details, I support the Parliament's proposal to modify the Article 7 procedure. By voting for a system of 'checks and balances' Parliament ensures that measures proposed by a national telecoms regulator – like market analyses and regulatory remedies – cannot be adopted when called into question by both the new European telecoms regulator and the European Commission. In so doing, Parliament has found a sound compromise between consistency and subsidiarity in the interest of an efficiently functioning Single Market that I very much appreciate."

"I also thank Parliament for its strong support for greater independence of national regulators. Independent national regulators are the backbone of an efficient application of telecoms rules for fair competition and tangible consumer benefits. Despite its importance, in reality it cannot be taken for granted, as seen last week with the surprisingly blunt interference with the independence of the Romanian telecoms regulator."

"I strongly welcome the European Parliament's support for adding the new remedy of functional separation – which requires an incumbent operator to separate its network infrastructure from its services branch – to the toolbox of national regulators. This last-resort remedy has the capacity to rapidly improve competition in markets while maintaining incentives for investment in new networks, as shown in the UK where it has already been implemented. The Parliament's vote will contribute legal certainty to countries where functional separation is already under discussion, especially Sweden, Poland and Greece."

"At the same time, the European Parliament has today opened new opportunities for investment in high-speed fibre optical broadband networks. The Parliament has confirmed and reinforced EU law on this important matter. On the one hand, it has clearly rejected all calls for 'regulatory holidays', as new monopolies would stifle competition and investment into fibre. On the other hand, it wants telecoms operators to receive a fair return on investment for allowing access to new fibre optic networks, including a substantial risk premium. I welcome this, and the Commission intends to give more detailed regulatory guidance on such next generation access networks at the beginning of next year." (IP/08/1370)

"Competition brings lower prices, better-quality services and more choice, so consumers are the real winners in today's vote. Increased transparency and information for consumers, better access to services for users with disabilities, a more efficient 112 European emergency number and number portability within one day – all these Commission proposals have received strong support in Parliament, for which I am very grateful."

"Some important questions remain open. On number portability – the consumer's ability to change their fixed or mobile operator while keeping their phone number – I welcome the Parliament's overall approach supporting the one-day limit proposed by the Commission. But we need to ensure that the option now given to national regulators to extend the period for number portability will not reduce the benefits of a competitive market where consumers benefit from choosing different operators when they make better offers."

"More will also have to be done on spectrum policy if we want to attract investment to new wireless services in Europe. The Commission's proposal to reform the management of radio spectrum intends to facilitate the roll out of such services, especially high speed wireless broadband connections that can reach less populated and rural areas to help achieve 'Broadband for All' in Europe. I welcome the support expressed by the European Parliament for more flexibility and harmonisation in spectrum use, but I hope that even more ambitious solutions can be agreed so that Europe gets the most efficient and consistent management of spectrum possible in order to bring about 'Broadband for All Europeans'. I also support Parliament’s intention to increase its involvement in the EU's spectrum strategy, and will continue to work with Parliament and Council to reach a satisfactory solution that provides more certainty for forthcoming EU decisions on distributing the so-called 'digital dividend' - the additional radio spectrum made available as a result of the transition from analogue to digital TV."

"I would like to thank the rapporteurs in the ITRE Committee, Catherine Trautmann (France, PSE) and Pilar del Castillo Vera (Spain, EPP-ED) and in the IMCO Committee, Malcolm Harbour (United Kingdom, EPP-ED), for their constructive work. The Parliament's reports, as adopted today by its plenary, are a very solid basis for its negotiations with the Council of Telecoms Ministers."

"I will now continue working with the European Parliament and the Council to ensure the adoption of the package before the end of this Parliament's term in 2009. Agreement is needed if consumers are to be adequately protected in a Single EU Telecoms Market and if operators can expect Europe to offer them a level playing field for telecoms investments."

Background:

The European Commission tabled its proposals for the reform of the Telecoms Reform Package on 13 November 2007 (IP/07/1677). Before the summer, the Council of Telecoms Ministers expressed its views on the Commission proposals (MEMO/07/522, MEMO/08/384) and the European Parliament debated the reform first at Committee level (MEMO/08/491) and then during its plenary session on 2 September. Following today's European Parliament vote, it is again up to the Telecoms Ministers to give their views.

For further details, see

MEMO/08/551: EU Telecoms Reform: the 6 Most Important Issues Still Open

MEMO/08/552: EU Telecoms Reform: 7 Very Concrete Improvements for European Consumers

Next steps:

27 November 2008: the Council could reach a first political agreement on the EU Telecoms Reform.


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