Brussels, 6th December 2010
Digital Agenda: results of EU Telecoms Council, Brussels, 3 December
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes warmly welcomed the support expressed by Ministers on the Commission's proposal to make spectrum available for wireless broadband by 2013 at the 3rd December EU's Council of Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Ministers in Brussels. Vice-President Kroes underlined to Ministers the importance of this proposal to meet the commitments made in the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200) of giving every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and fast and ultra-fast broadband by 2020). Ministers were also briefed about the forthcoming public consultation on EU roaming rules and adopted conclusions endorsing the Commission's Broadband Strategy. They also welcomed the Commission's proposals on modernising the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) and adopted conclusions on cross-fertilisation between the Digital Agenda for Europe and the Innovation Union.
Radio Spectrum Policy Programme
Vice-President Neelie Kroes welcomed Member States' open and transparent discussion on the Commission's proposal for a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP - see MEMO/10/425) and the fact that Member States generally welcomed the proposal. Commissioner Kroes stressed the strategic importance of spectrum for the competitiveness of the European economy. Member States acknowledged that radio spectrum could make an important contribution to the digital society, fast wireless services, economic recovery, growth, high-quality jobs and long-term EU competitiveness. Provisions on wireless broadband were identified as the main and most urgent elements of the proposal. The proposed inventory of spectrum use received wide support, but with some specific reservations expressed. Ministers from Member States with borders with non–EU countries called for EU support to coordinate spectrum usage.
The RSPP would facilitate the provision of fast broadband connections to people in remote areas and would help make innovative services available across Europe. If adopted, the RSPP would make available by 2013 the 800 MHz band resulting from the switch from analogue to digital television broadcasting (the so-called 'digital dividend') to cope with the mounting scarcity of spectrum available for broadband and technological innovation.
The radio spectrum proposal, together with a Broadband Communication and NGA Recommendation, is part of a package presented by the Commission in September 2010 to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe (IP/10/1142), one of the key targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
Vice-President Kroes announced to Ministers over lunch that later this month she will launch a wide-ranging public consultation on roaming, which will feed into the review of the effectiveness of the current EU roaming rules due before the end of June 2011. "The EU Roaming Regulation has been a major success, bringing significant consumer benefits to EU citizens" but she noted that at the same time there is "no true competition for roaming services". The Council took note, without discussion, of the Commission's report on the state of development of roaming services within the EU (see IP/10/851).
The report showed that although consumers are benefiting from lower roaming charges (50% less for voice calls and 60% less for SMS) thanks to the roaming Regulation, a truly competitive internal market for roaming services is still missing. In addition, regulated reductions in the wholesale cost of data roaming have not yet been passed on to consumers.
A key objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe is to create a well functioning Single Market for telecoms services where the difference between national and roaming charges should approach zero by 2015.
European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA)
Vice-President Kroes urged EU Telecoms Ministers to reach a swift agreement on the proposals to modernise the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), before the expiry of the current ENISA mandate in March 2012. The Commission presented its proposal to modernise ENISA at the end of September 2010 (see IP/10/1239) to help EU Member States and private stakeholders develop their capabilities to prevent, detect and respond to cyber-security challenges. All Member States welcomed the proposals and took note of a progress report on discussions thus far.
Vice-President Kroes welcomed the Council Conclusions which formally endorse the Broadband Strategy (see MEMO/10/427). The Broadband Strategy, part of the Commission's September 2010 broadband package (IP/10/1142), outlines how best to encourage private and public investment in fast and ultra-fast broadband networks.
Research and innovation
The Council adopted Conclusions on cross-fertilisation between the Digital Agenda for Europe and the Innovation Union (see IP/10/1288 and MEMO/10/473), both flagships under the Europe 2020 strategy. The Conclusions underlined that that an integrated European innovation strategy requires the setting up of a fully functioning digital Single Market for the benefit of European businesses, in particular SMEs and innovative start-ups, and European consumers.
Inter alia, the Conclusions encouraged the Commission to develop a proposal with a view to launching a pilot European Innovation Partnership on active and healthy ageing, to assess the concept, notably based on a mapping exercise of activities and stakeholders in this area, in particular related to the ICT sector, and evaluating the pilot in due course. The first European Innovation Partnership, on Active and Healthy Ageing (see IP/10/1069), is due to be launched in 2011.
The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing is part of the EU's "Innovation Union" strategy. Both the "Digital Agenda" and "Innovation Union" flagships work together to boost growth and jobs in Europe. Such partnerships aim to accelerate and scale up the market take up of practical solutions.
The Conclusions also invited the Commission to propose by 2011 an integrated framework for the development and promotion of e-skills for innovation, creativity, and competitiveness, based on partnerships with stakeholders; to present in early 2011 a Communication accompanied by a legislative proposal on standardisation, which will inter alia cover the ICT sector, in order to speed up and modernise standard-setting to enable interoperability and foster innovation in fast-moving global markets; and to propose by 2012 a revision of the Re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive, taking into account the results of the public consultation and, making, where appropriate, public sector data easily available as a resource for innovation.