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A new beginning for EU telecoms regulation: EU telecoms regulator starts work
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First meeting of the Board of Regulators of BEREC and the Management Committee of the Office
28 January 2010, Egmont Palace Brussels
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be invited to speak at the opening of the inaugural meeting of the Board of Regulators of BEREC and of the Management Committee of the Office. I think your invitation really arrived "just in time". We have all worked hard to make BEREC a reality. I wouldn't have wanted to miss out marking this occasion with you here today.
This first meeting symbolises a new beginning for telecoms regulation in Europe – quite literally, a coming together of national regulators, now under a "common European hat". It is a very tangible sign that we are serious when we say that Europe's telecoms operators, its businesses and consumers should no longer be confronted by national borders when it comes to network access and the delivery of communications services.
The new European telecoms regulator BEREC will provide a force for consistent regulation across the EU. It will be an essential partner for the European Commission in strengthening the single market also in the telecoms sector.
As the Commissioner who proposed the creation of the European telecoms regulator, I must congratulate you, the national regulators, for the active role you have taken in the discussions leading to the approval of the package and the creation of BEREC. In particular, I welcome the commitment and energy that you have shown in making it possible for the inaugural meeting of BEREC to take place so soon after the adoption of the reform package.
When the Commission presented its reform proposals in 2007, we highlighted the fact that a lack of consistency in the application of the EU rules and the regulatory fragmentation between Member States were two of the main obstacles standing in the way of an effective single market for telecommunications.
That is why the Commission proposed an ambitious reform. From the beginning, we made it clear that the consistent application of EU rules required a new independent, accountable, specialised and expert body to assist the Commission in promoting effective competition, sound regulation and tangible consumer benefits.
We have all been working hard over the past two years to find the best solutions for achieving consistent regulation in telecoms. I believe that the European Parliament and the Council have come up, after intense negotiations in which many of you were directly involved, with a well-balanced compromise that takes the interests of businesses and consumers well into account. The final result of the telecoms reform, as agreed last November, will enhance competition on Europe's telecoms market and give 500 million EU citizens more choice, better prices and better services.
The European Parliament and the Council have decided that the new mechanisms for avoiding divergent regulatory approaches, in particular the new say of the European Commission on remedies in the context of the Article 7 procedure, should be accompanied by the establishment of BEREC, thereby following the Commission's initial vision. At the same time, the co-legislators understood the need to provide a legitimate and solid basis for a stronger cooperation between national regulators within the EU regulatory framework. The result combines the independence and expertise of the national regulators in a form that is accountable for the important role it has been given.
We move from the loose form of cooperation "behind closed doors" that has existed in the past within the European Regulators Group, to a more transparent and efficient approach which moves the regulators from a simple advisory body of the Commission towards an institution of its own.
In saying all this, the new Office supporting the work BEREC is of crucial importance. If you are baking a cake and miss out an essential ingredient, like the eggs, well the results can be quite disappointing. The Office is an essential ingredient. It binds together, it provides authentic "Union-flavour" and it helps provide real substance to the output of BEREC. That is why I believe that the success of BEREC will depend on the dedicated professional support it receives from the Office in the preparation and dissemination of its work.
We now face a first challenge, which is to make BEREC and its Office operational as soon as possible to be able to respond quickly to the needs of the single market. That is why it is so important that the key decisions are taken to ensure that BEREC and its Office can get to work as soon as possible.
Although the full range of BEREC's tasks, such as their role in the reformed Article 7 procedure, will not come into play until the Member States have completed their transposition of the directives into national law – this will be by May 2011 –, BEREC is as of today the official voice of the national regulators and there are many issues which it will be called upon to consider in the coming weeks and months.
All the participants today therefore have an important responsibility to make this particular two-tier structure a success. You are all now wearing, in addition to your "national hat" as national regulator, a "European hat" as members of BEREC. I understand well that this new European dimension of the work of telecoms regulators will be a learning process – for stakeholders, for the media and also for the staff of national regulators. However, you will see that at the end of the day, the exchange of regulatory expertise across national borders and the close interaction within BEREC will over time strengthen the independence of national regulators and enhance the quality of their work.
It goes without saying that the experience gained within the Commission from the establishment of other Union bodies remains at your entire disposal whenever you should need it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am convinced that BEREC will become a European home fit for telecoms regulators when they exercise their responsibilities under the EU telecoms rules.
After having been the EU's Telecoms Commissioner for five years, I wish finally to thank you all for your cooperation and engagement over the last years. We certainly had our arguments and of course we did not always agree with each other on details. But together, we made sound telecoms regulation in Europe. And together we made the objective of a competitive single telecoms market a top priority on the political agenda. I would like to thank you for having travelled on this journey together with the Commission. These were truly fascinating times. We are today substantially closer to the objective that I know we all share in this room: the objective of a fully connected continent, where high-speed fibre and mobile connections from coast-to-coast have become self evident.
I know at first hand what an important job you have to do in the interests of Europe's economy and Europe's society. That is why I wish you every success for the future – the future that will start now!