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The European  Commission and  the Autorità  Garante della  Concorrenza e  del
Mercato (the Italian regulatory and monitoring  authority for competition and
markets),  at  the  initiative  of Commissioner  Emma  Bonino  and  President
Guiliano Amato, have  organised a forum on "Liberalisation of public services
and the consumer",  with the participation of European Commissioner Karel Van
Miert. The Forum, to be  held in Rome on  4 and 5 October, should cast  light
on  the legal  aspects  of the  liberalisation  process, the  safeguarding of
social  cohesion and the interests of  citizens as consumers. It will examine
experience to  date at  European  level and  in a  number of  Member  States.
Notably, this will  be an opportunity  for a  debate between regulators  (the
Commission, the  governments and the  regulatory and monitoring  authorities)
and the  suppliers and  beneficiaries of  the services  (final consumers  and
firms)  in   the  presence   of  a   select  public   of  approximately   350
representatives of institutions, economic operators and consumers.

From  the end  of the  1980s the  European  Commission has  been promoting  a
policy of  progressively opening the markets  for services  of public utility
of  a  commercial  nature.  This   process  began  with  air   transport  and
telecommunications (whose  liberalisation will  be complete  within a  year),
and should  gradually be  extended to  the market  for electricity  (where an
agreement  has been  reached  at Council  of  Minister level  on an  initial,
limited opening  of the market),  gas, part of  the postal services, and  sea
and rail transport.

The Commission is  keen to reconcile  certain fundamental  objectives of  the
Maastricht  Treaty:  create  a  single,  competitive  European  market  where
services can  move freely, strengthen  business competitiveness by  promoting
economic development and employment, safeguard economic  and social cohesion,
protect  the environment  and  promote  consumers' interests.  These  general
objectives are  being  pursued  with  the  aid  of  the  following  measures:
application  of the  competition  rules with  the progressive  elimination of
unwarranted  State   monopolies  on  the  grounds  of  the  general  economic
interest; legal harmonisation  and standardisation; guarantee of  a universal
service for certain  services (telecommunications and postal services)  and a
mission of  general  interest for  others (transport,  electricity, gas);  an
invitation  to the  Member  States  to  establish regulatory  and  monitoring
authorities  in the  liberalised sectors;  measures  to  promote and  protect
consumer  interests  (representation,  access  to information,  transparency,
freedom  to choose,  quality, affordable prices,  rapid and inexpensive legal
procedures and dispute resolution, etc.).

In recent months  this policy has been the  subject of an increasingly heated
debate  in  certain  Member  States  and  at  the   level  of  the  Community
institutions. And just some weeks ago the  topic was debated at the  European
Parliament  and  the Commission,  following which  a joint  communication was
adopted on "Services of general interest in Europe".

In  organising the  Forum,  the European  Commission's  main objective  is to
relaunch the debate on  liberalisation, with the focus on the  interests (and
expectations) of  the citizen  as consumer. In  the dialogue which  the Forum
hopes  to  encourage   between  the  institutions,  economic   operators  and
consumers  an attempt will be  made to answer  certain simple questions: Does
the dismantling of certain monopolies suit users  or not? What are the  risks
for the  citizen/consumer resulting  from the  opening of  the markets?  What
instruments are necessary and what are the most  effective ones if the market
is to work properly and if consumers are to be protected?

Currently  the  process of  liberalising  European  markets for  services  of
public utility  is meeting  with opposition  from certain  Member States  and
some of the  social partners. The  consumer-citizen-voter is  the first  ally
the  Commission must  seek  out in  its  drive to  pursue and  complete  this
process.  However,  citizens must  first  be  persuaded  of  the benefits  of
liberalisation  and the  tangible  advantages for  them  in terms  of choice,
quality and prices; they must be given assurances  of universal access to the
services  and  the  maintenance  of  "non-negotiable"   services  of  general
interest  (links  with the islands, telephone cabins, freephone numbers, etc.
etc.). But  some developments speak for themselves,  such as the reduction in
airfares throughout  Europe, where  liberalisation has  had a  genuine social
function by widening  access to the service to economically weaker categories
who up  to now were  excluded because the  prices charged by the  monopolists
were often very high.

ANNEX: programme

ROME FORUM

PUBLIC UTILITIES, LIBERALIZATION AND CONSUMERS

organised by

the EUROPEAN COMMISSION

and

the AUTORITA' GARANTE DELLA CONCORRENZA E DEL MERCATO

4 October 1996

(9.00-10.00) Addresses and Introduction

Welcoming Address 
Giuliano AMATO, President  of the Autorità  Garante della  Concorrenza e  del
Mercato
Emma BONINO, Member of the European Commission

SESSION I
Why is the Commission encouraging the liberalization of public utilities? 
The views of Member States
The benefits for consumers

(10.00) Introductory remark and chair
Luciano CAFAGNA, Elder  Member of the  Autorità Garante  della Concorrenza  e
del Mercato

(10.10) Introductory paper
"Comprehensive explanation of the Commission's position"
Karel VAN MIERT, Member of the European Commission 

"What is the Council of Ministers' Reaction?"
(10.40) Hugh COVENEY,  Irish Minister of  state, President  of the EU  Budget
Council 

View from the EC Court of Justice
(11.20) Giuseppe TESAURO,  First Advocate General,  Court of  Justice of  the
European Communities 
Public services providers' view
(11.35) Ernesto PASCALE, Chief Executive STET
(11.45) Christian STOFFAES,  Initiative pour les Services  d'Utilité Publique
en Europe
Consumers' view
(11.55) Koos ANDERSON, President of  BEUC

SESSION II

Establishing competitive markets for the benefit of consumers : 
the case of postal services and telecommunications

(A) POSTAL SERVICE

(12.10) Introductory remark and chair
Antonio TIZZANO, Professor of Community Law, Università La Sapienza, Italy

(12.15) Introductory paper
Robert VERRUE, Director General for Telecommunications, European Commission
 
"Consumer protection, universal service and competition: the EU approach"
Views from service providers
(12.25) André DARRIGRAND, President of  LA POSTE
(12.45) Enzo CARDI, President of Ente Poste Italiane 
Experience of entering the market
(13.05) Pekka VENNAMO, President of Finland Post LTD 
Consumers' view
(13.20) Nic BRAUGH, Member of the Board of Assoutenti  
(13.30)   Renato STRADA, Director of CISPEL, Italian  Confederation of Public
          Utilities of Local Administrations

Lunch (13.40-15.00)

(B) TELECOM

(15.00) Introductory remarks and chair:
Robert VERRUE, Director General for Telecommunications, European Commission 
(15.10) Introductory paper
"Opening the market ensuring consumer interest"
Antonio MACCANICO, Italian Minister for Post and Telecommunications 

"Are there problems for Member States, regulators, business and consumers?"
National Governments' view
(15.35) Elio  DI RUPO, Belgian Deputy  Prime Minister,  Minister for Economic
Affairs 
(16.00) Paul LAUFS,  Secretary of State for Post and Telecommunications

Liberalisation and consumer protection in the UK experience
(16.25) Donald G. CRUICKSHANK, Director General of OFTEL, UK
Working under regulation
(16.45) Vito GAMBERALE, Chief Executive, Telecom Italia Mobile 
Experience of entering the market
(17.00) Carlo DE BENEDETTI, Honorary President of Olivetti 
(17.15) Ludwig HOFFMANN, Director of VEBA Telecom
Consumers' view
(17.30) Armand DE WASCH, Director of Test Achat 
(17.45) Anna CIAPERONI, Consulta delle Associazioni dei Consumatori, IT

(20.00) Official dinner

5 October 1996

SESSION III

Establishing a competitive European market for the benefit of consumers:
the case of electricity

(9.00) Introductory remarks and chair
Miguel A.  Fernandez  ORDONEZ, President  of Comision  del Sistema  Electrico
National, Spain 

(9.10) Introductory Paper
"Does competition improve consumer welfare?"
Pierluigi BERSANI, Italian Minister for Industry 

Service providers' view
(9.30) Edmont ALPHANDERY, President of  Electricité de France
(9.50) Franco TATO', Chief executive of  ENEL, IT
View of the UK experience
(10.10) Stephen LITTLECHILD, Director General of  OFFER, UK
Experience of entering the market
(10.30)   John  ROBERTS,   Chief  executive  of     Swalec,  UK   Electricity
          Association 
Consumers' view
(10.45) Robin SIMPSON, Acting Director of  National Consumer Council 

SESSION IV

Consumer policy - how to assert its influence

(11.00) Introductory paper and chair
"What needs to be done to safeguard consumers' interests": 
Emma BONINO, Member of the European Commission

Governments' view
(11.30)   Umberto  CARPI,  Italian  Under Secretary  of  State  for  Consumer
          Policy
(11.50)   Christian BABUSIAUX,  Director  General for  Competition,  Consumer
          Policy and Frauds Repression, Ministry for Economics and Finances 
Business' view
(12.10)   Luigi MASTROBUONO, Secretary General of Unioncamere
Consumers' view
(12.20) Stephen LOCKE, Director of  Consumers' Association, UK
(12.40) Jim MURRAY, Director of  BEUC 

(13.00) CONCLUSIONS

Giuliano AMATO, President  of the Autorità  Garante della  Concorrenza e  del
Mercato

***

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