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Telecommunications Council

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 17 December 2015

The Telecommunications Council took place in Brussels on 11 December 2015. The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Shan Morgan, represented the UK.

The first item was a progress report from the presidency regarding the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility to public sector bodies’ websites (First reading—EM 16006/11). There was no substantive debate on this item.

The second item was a report from the presidency on the outcome of negotiations, specifically trilogues, regarding the 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 (First reading—EM6342/13). There was no substantive debate on this item.

These items were followed by a round-table debate on the review of the European electronic communications framework. EU Commissioner Oettinger introduced the debate by noting that the EU had moved away from the era of fixed-line telephones, and highlighted the range of new technologies which are reliant on internet connectivity.

Member state interventions by Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, the UK, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Latvia and Lithuania all spoke against over-regulating the new “over-the-top” services such as WhatsApp or Skype. However, Germany, France, Spain, Greece and Portugal spoke in support of the need for “equivalent” regulation for such services.

Delivering investment in telecommunications networks through competition was also a common theme, as was the importance of flexibility in EU state aid to support investment in areas where the market was not well placed to deliver.

Many member states also raised the issue of spectrum management, and although several spoke of the benefits of increased co-ordination between member states for the allocation of spectrum, none supported a greater role for the Commission.

Better regulation was also raised by several member states, who saw the review of the electronic communications framework as a good opportunity to reduce the regulatory burden on operators. The UK’s intervention was as per my pre-Council statement (HCWS384).

This was followed by two items under AOB led by the Commission. The first being information from the Commission on current internet governance issues, and the second an update on the telecommunication and ICT aspects of the negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). There were no substantive interventions on either of these items.

Finally, the Dutch delegation informed the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming presidency before Council adjourned until the next meeting in May 2016.