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Brussels, 10 June 2009
Telecoms Council, Luxembourg, 11 June 2009
The Council of EU Telecoms Ministers will meet in Luxembourg on 11 June 2009 to discuss key issues related to Europe's Information Society. EU Telecoms Ministers will engage in an exchange of views on the future of Europe's network and information security policy, and the Commission will share its plans for the future of Europe's internet. The Presidency will also provide feedback from the ministerial conference on making the internet a safer place for children. Most important, an informal discussion among Ministers is expected on the strategy forward for the adoption of the EU telecoms reform "package". The European Commission will be represented at the Council by Viviane Reding, the EU's Telecoms Commissioner.
" This is an important week for Europe's telecoms companies and its 500 million consumers," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "Industry needs legal certainty to invest and easier access to radio spectrum for wireless services, in particular in these difficult economic times. Consumers need effective competition among telecoms operators, connection to high-speed broadband internet wherever they are and wherever they go, and a better protection of their privacy on the web. All these reforms could happen still this year. 99% of the text of the telecoms package has already been agreed between Parliament and Council and is ready to enter into force. I therefore now call on all political players to do their best in the next days and weeks to settle the last pending issue. Critics often lament about Europe's lack of competitiveness, because of the alleged length of the EU's decision-making processes. In the next days and weeks, Council and Parliament have the unique opportunity to prove these critics wrong."
Telecoms Reform Package – Informal discussion
The telecoms reform "package" includes a reform of 6 different EU Directives (Framework Directive, Access Directive, Authorisation Directive, Universal Service Directive, e-Privacy Directive and the related GSM Directive) as well as a new Regulation establishing a European Telecoms Authority called "BEREC".
On 6 May, all 7 parts of the "package" were approved, by an overwhelming majority, by the European Parliament at a second reading. Overwhelming support was given in particular to the new Directives on e-Privacy and Universal Service, the establishment of the new European Telecoms Authority "BEREC", a modern set of rules for ensuring efficient management of radio spectrum and helping to remove regulatory obstacles and inconsistencies in the single telecoms market, as well as the GSM Directive (on the 12 most important innovations of the telecoms reform, see ).
However, the European Parliament also decided, in its plenary vote, to add one amendment to the reform of the Framework Directive – an amendment requiring national telecoms regulators to respect fundamental rights (see MEMO/08/681 ). Parliament and Council have not yet reached agreement on this amendment and this could therefore require further negotiations.
Ministers will have informal discussions on the strategic question being of how to proceed with the "package". While some parts of the reform are of crucial importance for the telecoms industry (such as the reform of the GSM Directive, which is expected to lead to capital cost savings of up to €1.6bn via more efficient management of the radio spectrum), other parts include important new consumer rights (such as the reform of the Universal Service Directive, under which consumers will be able to change fixed or mobile operator within one working day).
What is expected at this Council? Ministers are expected to have an informal political discussion to address the various options for the final adoption of the "package".
Main items on the formal agenda of this Telecoms Council:
European network and information security policy
As proposed by the Commission, in September 2008, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament agreed on a transitional measure to extend the mandate of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) for three years. One of the outcomes of the discussion on the extension was to use this time as a period of reflection on network and information security in Europe.
The Commission recently adopted a Communication on Critical Information Infrastructure Protection (CIIP) and presented it to the Council of Ministers on 31 March 2009 ( ). As a next step, the Czech Presidency organised together with Estonia a Ministerial Conference on CIIP in Tallinn on 27-28 April 2009 (see also ).
What is expected at this Council? The 27 EU telecoms ministers will exchange views on the future of network and information security policy in Europe. This will pave the way for the adoption of Council conclusions at the Telecoms Council scheduled for 17-18 December 2009.
Internet of Things – An action plan for Europe.
A quiet evolution is taking place for electronic communications: day-to-day physical objects, such as cars, books or even clothes are being connected into networks, forming an 'Internet of Things'. The European Commission has outlined the steps Europe needs to take in order to reap the full benefits that this new technological development can bring to the people and the economy of the EU, while also addressing key policy challenges such as protection of privacy and the management of connections.
What is expected at this Council? Against the background of the expected adoption of its Communication on the Internet of Things, the Commission will present an action plan for putting Europe at the forefront of the innovations being shaped by the evolution towards an internet that connects objects in the real world.
Background: In 2006, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the development and use of smart chips (or Radio Frequency Identification technologies, ). Based on this, the Commission adopted in March 2007 a Communication noting that smart chips are only the tip of the iceberg of a broader development evoked under the name of the Internet of Things ( ). The Commission also adopted, on 12 May 2009, a Recommendation with regard to the need to protect citizens' privacy in the evolving "Internet of Things" (see ) .
Ministerial Conference – Safer Internet for Children
On 20 April 2009, the Czech Presidency of the European Union with the support of the European Commission organised a ministerial conference on "Safer Internet for Children: Fighting together against illegal content and conduct on-line". Government representatives adopted the , which engages Member States to support European Union's leading role in ensuring a safe online environment for young people and combating online distribution of child sexual abuse material.
What is expected at this Council? The Presidency will present the results of the Ministerial conference on Safer Internet to the Council.
Background: As of January 2009, the EU has a new Safer Internet Programme ( ). The Commission is pursuing a number of initiatives to protect and empower Europe's children in their increasing use of electronic communication devices, such as mobile phones and the internet. For example, in April 2009, it called on mobile operators to adhere to the measures in the voluntary code of conduct – the "European Framework for Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children” – brokered by the Commission in February 2007 ( ; ). So far, 26 mobile operators have signed up. In February 2009, on Safer Internet Day, the Commission started a campaign against cyber-bullying ( ) and brokered an agreement with leading social networking companies who committed to ensure a safe online environment for children ( ). The new Safer Internet Programme covers the period 2009-2013 and was proposed by the European Commission in February 2008 ( ).
European citizens, businesses and public authorities depend on the smooth functioning of the internet in their daily activities, making the governance of the global network a crucial public policy priority. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plays a key role in the way internet is run by coordinating a system which allows computers across the world to connect to each other. Since 1998 ICANN has been operating under an agreement with the US Government. The agreement will expire on 30 September 2009, allowing the current governance framework to be updated taking into account the key role that internet has come to play in the last decade.
What is expected at this Council? In view of the expected adoption of the Commission's Communication on internet governance, which will help Europe to reach a coordinated position on the matter, the Commission will present the key points of the international discussions on the governance of the internet.
Background: The EU is an active participant in international discussions on internet governance. This issue was last considered by the Council in June 2005 and since then has continued to be addressed in the informal Commission High Level Group on Internet Governance. On 6 May, the Commission organised a on the subject with representatives of the industry and civil society. Ahead of this hearing, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding had outlined her vision for the future of internet governance in a video message (see ).
Full text of Reding's message on internet governance: