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Slovenian Economy Minister Vizjak comments on "great progress" in harmonising regulatory package on electronic communications networks and services

The EU Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council has concluded its meeting in Luxembourg. Telecommunications and information society issues were on the agenda. The Council was chaired by the Slovenian Minister of the Economy, Andrej Vizjak, and the Slovenian Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Mojca Kucler Dolinar, and one of the key topics was a review of progress made in harmonisation of the regulatory package on electronic communications networks and services.

The Council President noted, "Significant progress has been achieved – especially in addressing the two Directives: the 'Better Regulation' Directive and the 'Citizens' Rights' Directive. We are pleased that, with the joint efforts and commitment of all the EU Member States, we have been able to harmonise our positions on many elements of the Commission's proposal of November 2007."

The draft 'Better Regulation' Directive includes a raft of essential substantive amendments to the current regulatory framework. The compromise proposal, prepared by the Slovenian Presidency and closer to the positions of the Member States, introduces more efficient use of the spectrum and a more consistent regulatory framework for the purposes of the functioning of the internal market in the area of electronic communications. It thus provides a good basis for future work by the French Presidency. There are still many issues to be resolved. For example, the Member States' positions on the introduction of functional unbundling, issues of the national regulatory authorities, network safety and integrity as well as the new comitology and harmonisation procedures need to be harmonised.

In connection with the 'Citizens' Rights' Directive, the Presidency has succeeded in harmonising the provisional positions of the EU Member States on most of the core elements of the Commission's proposal. The Commission and Member State positions still differ, however, regarding the technical options for the use of VoIP services for emergency calls, personal data protection, ways to reduce the level of copyright abuse, and the change in the scope and methods of universal service provision.

Mr Vizjak said: "In our estimation, the proposed changes particularly seek to enhance the rights of consumers and users, to improve the privacy of individuals and to protect personal data in the field of electronic communications."

At lunch, the ministers also discussed the proposal for a Regulation establishing the European Electronic Communications Market Authority. The view taken by the majority of EU Member States was that the operation of the internal market for electronic communications should be intensified. However, the new authority's objectives and tasks have to be agreed before its legal structure can be discussed. In this regard, the principles of efficiency, transparency, independence and professionalism must be taken into account. Over lunch, it emerged that the Member States were not in favour of incorporating the existing European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) into the new European Electronic Communications Market Authority. They also considered that the new authority's tasks should not include spectrum management.

The ministers adopted conclusions in the field covered by the Commission communication 'Reaping the full benefits of the digital dividend in Europe: a common approach to the use of the spectrum released by the digital switchover'. The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting technology and the use of more advanced digital technology will mean that existing UHF-band radiocommunications services can be provided using less of the available spectrum. This will result in freeing up areas of the radio spectrum, an effect known as the 'digital dividend'.

Following a proposal from the Slovenian Presidency, the conclusions adopted by the Council also specified the requirement for the European Commission to play a more active role in settling disputes arising from pernicious interference in border regions. This will undoubtedly be of benefit to the European border residents faced with this problem.

The Slovenian Presidency succeeded in harmonising the Decision on the selection and authorisation of systems providing mobile satellite services (MSS) in the 2 GHz band. The compromise proposal has also been adopted by the European Parliament and so the Council's approval of this Decision is only a formality. Due to the delay in the official translations, the formal decision was only announced at this Council meeting.


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Date: 13.06.2008