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Belgium referred to CJEU over independence of telecoms regulator

The European Commission has referred Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) because it believes Belgian law “does not guarantee” the independence of the country’s national telecoms regulator.

The Commission said the move followed Belgium’s refusal to adapt national law on the issue, despite a formal request made by the Commission in April 2014.

According to the Commission, under EU rules (18-page / 192 KB PDF), national telecoms authorities responsible for market regulation and the settlement of disputes between companies “must act independently and not take or seek instructions when applying those rules”.

However, the Commission said: “Under Belgian law, the Belgian Council of Ministers can, under certain circumstances, suspend decisions of the Belgian telecoms regulator, the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT). Furthermore, the BPIT must obtain the approval of its multi-annual strategy by the Belgian Council of Ministers.”

The Commission said it considered “these elements limit the independence of the BIPT when implementing EU telecoms rules and that this can have negative consequences for competition in the sector”.

“This infringement proceeding is part of the Commission’s efforts to ensure that national telecoms regulators are independent,” the Commission said.

“An independent regulator is essential to a well-functioning liberalised market,” the Commission said. “Independence requirements have been reinforced in the 2009 reform package to include the prohibition of political interference.”

According to the Commission, in around 95% of infringement cases EU member states comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the CJEU. If the CJEU rules against a member state, that state “must then take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment”.

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