21st November 2014

Italian Presidency pushes strong for adoption of the telecoms package

Brussels insiders have indicated that the Italian presidency made a strong move last week in pursuit of reaching a deal on the single telecoms package. The proposal ought to have been discussed by the relevant working group (the lowest-level Council formation) on 20 November, and the following day by COREPER (Committee of Permanent Representatives), so that a deal could be reached on 27 November at the Telecommunications Council meeting by the ministers and negotiations with the MEPs on the final regulation could begin at last. In 2013, the then Commissioner Neelie Kroes put forward a proposal creating single telecoms market. This proposed regulation would ban intra-EU roaming surcharges, centralize telecoms regulation, create single telecoms licensing mechanism and many other aspects. The MEPs changed the proposal substantively, scraping some important parts and leaving only several main things, most notably end of intra-EU roaming in 2015, net neutrality and spectrum allocation coordination. Their version of the proposed regulation was adopted by the plenary shortly before the May EP elections. The Council, however, has been unable to reach an agreement on the issue. Several aspects are very politically sensitive, for instance spectrum allocation (radio spectrum is one of the few assets the states can freely decide upon, without the input of the EU) or single telecoms license. On the other hand, telecoms operators push for a more centralized market, as well as against measures which would decrease their revenues, typically roaming. They say investment in new technologies would be severely obstructed by further revenue decreases.

It has become clear that strong political leadership is needed to steer the regulation through the Council. Italy has taken up the task now. If ministers agree this week on a general approach, negotiations with the MEPs will start and the process would finally move forward.

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Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic