Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Agreement reached on EU telecoms package

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Representatives of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have reached agreement on the EU’s telecoms package in a conciliation procedure. This procedure resulted from the impasse that proceeded in May from Parliament’s insistence on including a clause (Amendment 138) requiring a judicial procedure before users’ net access could be cut off.

The impasse on this one issue had threatened the whole package, a combination of five Directives and a Regulation which seeks to strengthen competition and consumer rights, facilitate high-speed internet broadband connections to all Europeans and establish a European body of telecoms regulators (BEREC) to complete the single market for telecoms networks and services. (A list of the dozen most prominent reforms can be found in the Commission’s press release.) Parliament recognised that agreement was necessary so as not to jeopardise the package and is reported by the Swedish Presidency to have agreed not to press its view too hard. Consequently, a compromise has been reached which seeks to take the spirit of Amendment 138 of the need to enshrine an approach which protects net users’ rights by providing fair and impartial procedural and judicial safeguards which embody the user’s right to be heard, taking place with ‘due respect for the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy’ (see Parliament’s press release and its own FAQs).

The package is subject to confirmatory votes both by Parliament, in a final reading in full session, and the Council (by majority vote) which are both expected to take place before the end of November. The text can only be approved or rejected – no further amendments are possible. Establishment of BEREC is expected next spring while the Directives (unlike the Regulation) will need to be tranposed into the 27 national legislatures before they can come into force at national level, a process which is expected to have been completed by May 2011.

Agreement on the package is timely. It is important not least given the rapidity of technological evolution and the role of infrastructure investment in sustaining European economies out of recession, to which regulatory predictability is expected to add positively to the conditions surrounding the consideration of investment in high speed broadband and thus to job security and growth. Connect General Secretary Adrian Askew, as President of UNI Europa Telecom, earlier this year specifically endorsed the need to secure the package, and UNI has worked very hard to secure workers’ rights, not least in terms of the package openly seeing workers as stakeholders in any question of regulatory separation. [Edit 16 November to add link to UNI website welcoming the compromise.]

It’s also clear that, after two years of negotiation on this package, and as with the European treaties more generally, appetite for ‘another go’ should this package have fallen would be extraordinarily low.

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Written by Calvin

06/11/2009 at 12:28 pm

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