Single EU telecoms vote delayed

Out-Law News | 10 Mar 2014 | 3:00 pm | 2 min. read

A European Parliament vote on proposals to create a single European telecoms market has been delayed in a move which could postpone a final decision on the issue until after the European elections in May.

The parliament's committee on industry, transport, research and energy (ITRE) was due to vote this week on a proposal to create a single European telecoms market, which would aim to improve the EU's competitiveness and boost investment in the telecoms sector.

Under the proposals, telecoms operators would be allowed to operate in all 28 EU member states by obtaining a single authorisation to do so from a national regulator. Currently the companies must secure separate authorisations from each telecoms regulator in each of the individual states.

MEPs are expected to back the proposal, following some amendments, said the European Voice newspaper.

However the vote was delayed after some MEPs raised objections that  documents detailing an amendment to the telecoms proposals were available only in English, and had not been translated into all 24 of the EU official languages. The translation concerns stemmed from an earlier discussion in the ITRE meeting, when the committee was considering an item on limiting the use of plastic bags, which was unrelated to the telecoms issue, and decided to postpone that vote because the amendment was available only in English. A spokeswoman for the parliament said that the documents would now be translated into all 24 languages, though this was unusual for amendments of this nature.

The ITRE committee vote is now schedule to take place on 17 March but the delay may push back a final decision on the issue until after the European elections in May.

One parliament official said that forthcoming sessions of the parliament are so busy that it may not be possible to find room on the agenda for the telecoms single market proposal before the parliament dissolves in May, European Voice reported.

Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda, said: "I am confident that this postponement will not distract the ITRE members from their vote on this important proposal. It is clear that there is majority support for the [telecoms] package, and that the package is a win-win for all the different parties."

The European Commission  unveiled  a draft single EU telecoms market and 'connected continent' Regulation (73-page / 345KB PDF) in September last year.

The proposed reforms contain "simpler rules" designed to "help companies invest more and expand across borders", plans to drive more cross-border expansion by telecoms operators by coordinating the way radio frequency spectrum is allocated across the trading bloc, and a 'carrot and stick' approach to end roaming charges levied on consumers, amongst other measures.

The Commission's proposals said: "The Regulation introduces a single EU authorisation based on a single notification system in the Member State of main establishment of the European electronic communication provider (the home country) and sets out the conditions applicable to it. The withdrawal and/or suspension of the Single EU authorisation are subject to home-country control.

"Holders of a single EU authorisation are entitled to equal regulatory treatment in similar situations within and across Member States and new entrants and smaller cross-border operators are exempted from administrative charges and contributions to the universal service financing in Member States other than the home country [host countries]," the proposals said.

"Holders of a single EU authorisation will further provide services throughout Europe on the basis of greater consistent application of regulatory obligations. The single European authorisation will thereby reduce unnecessary administrative hurdles and guarantee European providers more consistent rights and obligations to operate across the EU and achieve scale," the proposals said.