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Telecommunications Council

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 23 June 2015

The Telecommunications Council took place in Luxembourg on 12 June 2015. I represented the UK and below are the agenda items and the positions, where applicable, I took on each of them. Please be aware that the order of the agenda, as laid out in the pre-Council statement was changed by the Latvian presidency at the last minute. This statement reflects those changes.

The first item was an exchange of views on the Commissions digital single market strategy, which was published on 6 May. The debate was informed by two questions from the presidency. My intervention was as per the pre-Council statement. The Commission Vice President Ansip opened the debate by identifying three priorities for the digital single market––goods and services; infrastructure; and e-commerce and e-society. He also noted the need for progress on geographic price blocking. On copyright, he also suggested that more work was needed to harmonise exceptions currently invoked by member states.

Member state interventions covered a range of issues, including e-skills, infrastructure, e-commerce and the internet of things. Copyright and platform regulation were also two of the more commonly raised issues, with clear emerging divisions between member states. The UK, Finland, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden also linked the Commission’s better regulation agenda and the digital single market, noting the benefits of industry-led approaches where possible.

The second item was for Council to reach agreement for a general approach on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a programme on interoperability solutions for European public administrations, businesses and citizens (ISA2, First reading, EM11580/14). As per my pre-Council statement, I abstained from voting for the general approach. However, the rest of Council agreed to the general approach and this approach will now form the basis of the Council discussions going forward.

I hope that the improvements to the text that could not be agreed in Council will be made during the trilogue negotiations, so that the UK may support the proposal when it comes to final agreement. The UK continues to encourage the inclusion of more tangible efforts to make ISA2 a more effective programme, including clearer prioritisation and evaluation of programme actions based on user needs and clearer analysis of how actions support efforts in other parts of the Commission.

The presidency then presented a progress report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility to public sector bodies’ websites (First Reading, EM16006/11). There was no debate on this item.

This was followed by the adoption of draft Council conclusions on the transfer of the stewardship of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the multi-stakeholder community. Council agreed to the adoption of these conclusions and there was no debate on this item.

There were three items under AOB on the agenda. The first two items were information from the presidency on the “state of play” on negotiations regarding “a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a connected continent” (EM13562/13 and 13555/13 + ADDs 1-2) and information from the presidency on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning measures to ensure a high level of network and information security across the Union (NIS directive). (First Reading, EM6342/13). The presidency updated Council on the progress of both, which are each in the middle of trilogue negotiations between the Council, Parliament and Commission. There was no substantive debate on either of these items and I did not intervene.

As noted in my pre-Council statement, the readout from the presidency on the connected continent package was informed by the informal ministerial breakfast whose aim was to reach political agreement on the regulation.

At this breakfast, Council could not reach such an agreement and the negotiation of this package therefore continues. At the breakfast, I intervened as per my pre-Council statement, especially pushing the cessation of EU roaming charges in the near future and the importance of a future-proof approach to net neutrality. I was given strong support on this approach by Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. However, the majority of Council did not agree with this approach.

Finally, under AOB, the Luxembourg delegation informed the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming presidency before Council adjourns until the next meeting in quarter four 2015.