New EU telecoms body remains disputed

The row over the proposed EU telecoms authority rumbles on, with Commissioner Reding defending her line in a new letter to national regulators. Meanwhile, the European Regulators Group (ERG) keeps on insisting upon “clear” independence from Brussels for the new body.

“The Commission has made some steps towards our position, but we want the independence of the new authority to be clearly reflected in a European system, which is not yet the case”, said Roberto Viola, the outgoing chairman of the European Regulators Group (ERG), – which gathers the telecoms authorities of the 27 EU members – during a meeting with the press in Brussels. ERG has already outlined this position in two letters sent to the Commission in 2007.

On the other hand, in a letter sent to ERG ahead of its last plenary session on 6 December in Rome and made public yesterday, EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding once again explained the Commission’s plan for an EU authority included in the review proposed in November (EURACTIV 14/11/07), but did not make any real concessions to ERG.

Reding remained firm in considering the current proposal as an offer to the national regulators. “We have now reached the legal limits of the present regulatory framework”, which “foresees for the ERG a role as advisor to the Commission that is in many respects dependent on the Commission – nothing less, but also nothing more”, wrote the Commissioner, making it clear that the new authority, even if subject to a Commission veto, will still be a more powerful body than ERG is now.

Reding also criticised the Independent Regulators Group (IRG), established by ERG in December “as a vehicle to improve the collective resources available to the National Regulatory Authorities”, says an ERG press release.

“The legal establishment of the new private-law body IRG adds some complexity and yet another player to the regulatory process in addition to ERG. The underlying arrangements for national contributions to the budget of this new entity remain to be seen”, commented the Commissioner in her letter.

Both Reding and Viola agree that 2010-2011 should be the deadline for the establishment of the new authority. At the end of the year, the chairmanship of ERG will be handed over by Italy to Hungary, which will become the first “new EU member” to run the group.

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