|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.44, 29.11.01, p20|
NEVER has the telecoms industry been so united.
From mobile operators and huge former monopolies to the smallest new entrant, there is consensus agreement that the European Commission must have the final say over the way national regulators apply the regulatory framework to rule the sector in the 21st century.
The reasons are clear.
New entrants claim regulators have done little to curb the powers of monopolies - and say the Commission is the only body they can trust to ensure fair market access across the Union.
The old monopolies are new entrants themselves in other EU markets and complain that they may face a different interpretation of the same rules when they try to do business abroad.
They all agree with Erkki Liikanen, the telecoms commissioner, who says a sparingly-used veto is the only way to guarantee the single market for the sector.
National regulators, however, don't see it that way. The Independent Regulators Group is campaigning to prevent the Commission from having the final say on how rules are interpreted. This would include identifying operators and "relevant markets" where the EU's new competition policy-based approach would kick-in.
The group says only national regulators, acting in concert at EU level, should be the ones to decide. Anything else would undermine their independence and lead to the creation of a remote, super-telecoms regulator in Brussels.
"The Commission's desire to have a veto is wrong," says Annegrat Groebel, the international cooperation manager for German regulator RegTP, which currently chairs the IRG. "We are absolutely against a euro-regulator. We think it is much more useful if there is a near-to-the-market regulation by a national body at national level." She argues that national regulators in the IRG would best be able to guarantee the single market, although she says regulators would be happy to consult with the Commission in a separate "new group" of regulators and officials.
"There is a moral pressure when you take decisions. All decisions are reached by consensus...you will not easily deviate."
She says Liikanen's claims that the Commission veto is part and parcel of the institution's role as guardian of the Treaties and single market enforcer is no reason for giving it the power.
"Even though the Commission says there are precedents for the veto there are not. It would be a new approach that would give power to the Commission."
She also had some words of warning for MEPs who may want to have a say in the work of the regulators once the system is up and running: Don't expect any.
"Parliament is in the game too but you should remember that Parliament passes the law and then the law is transposed. That is the democratic control of Parliament. Its not the democratic role of Parliament to monitor a group installed by the law."
MEPs in the assembly's industry committee voted this week to keep most of the Commission's veto rights, although the final decision would need the backing of the full Parliament meeting on 12 December and the telecoms ministers' meeting on 6 December. If they fail to thrash out a deal the directive would go to a three-month "conciliation" procedure. But industry sources fear a shoddy compromise on the power struggle between Brussels and capitals will leave the long sought after single telecoms market a pipe dream. "We could end up with a commissariat camel - a horse designed by committee," said one.
Throughout the telecoms industry there is consensus agreement that the European Commission must have the final say over the way national regulators apply the regulatory framework to rule the sector in the 21st century. National regulators, however, don't see it that way. Article forms part of a special report on telecoms.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|