I represented the UK at the Telecoms Council in Luxembourg on 7 June 2007, which was the only such council under the current German presidency.
The council began by reaching agreement on the Commission proposal for a regulation on roaming on public mobile networks within the Community, which will now be adopted later this month. The Commission thanked all involved for their constructive input and called on the council not to delay implementation. During my intervention I congratulated the presidency, council, European Parliament and the Commission on reaching a swift agreement. I also welcomed an outcome which delivered real benefits to consumers, while at the same time ensuring innovation and competition.
The presidency then discussed the Commission's communication on radio frequency identification (RFID), a microchip-based technology that stores information about products or people, which can be read only by the appropriate scanners. The council was in agreement on the economic benefits RFID can deliver but recognised there were issues relating to privacy that need to be satisfactorily resolved before these benefits were realised. The Commission informed the council that it would be creating a RFID stakeholder group to raise awareness of these technologies and to address these concerns. In response to the council's concerns regarding privacy and personal data, the Commission confirmed that it would amend the e=privacy directive as part of its forthcoming review of the electronic communications framework.
The council conclusions on the Commission's i2010 strategy, which seek to direct the Commission's focus in the ICT policy field, were adopted without substantive comment. The Commission did, however, take the opportunity to remind council of the need to address the broadband gap across Europe in order to improve overall competitiveness. A substantial debate on the i2010 strategy is expected during the Slovenian presidency as part of the i2010 mid-term review.
Under any other business (AOB), the Commission highlighted its communication on the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA). The current mandate of ENISA, designed to assist EU institutions and member states in developing network security strategies, runs up until March 2009. The Commission is undertaking a review of this mandate and used this agenda item to raise this issue with the council. During this agenda item Estonia also took the opportunity to thank NATO and member states for the support it received during the recent cyber-attacks on its government websites.
Following the council, the German presidency hosted a ministerial lunch to discuss postal services. During discussions it became clear there was broad agreement in principle on the full opening of the European postal market. Despite earlier agreement that the market should be fully opened by 2009, consensus was not reached on this date. Also, a number of countries expressed concerns on how a universal service would be funded in an open market. Portugal, which is assuming the presidency in July, is keen to reach agreement on the liberalisation of postal services during its presidency.