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EU: Telecoms Council

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2009

Statement

I am pleased to confirm the agenda items for which BERR has responsibility at the forthcoming Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (Telecoms Council) in Brussels on 31 March 2009.

There are only two substantive agenda items, the first of which is the adoption of council conclusions on the Commission's communication for an accessible information society. The UK welcomes and supports the timing of this communication which is in line with recommendations recently made in the cross-government report Delivering Digital InclusionAn Action Plan for Consultation. Both the cross-government paper and the Digital Britain Report are also looking at what the Government can do to stimulate take-up and access of digital technologies in the UK.

This will be followed by an exchange of views on the impact of the economic downturn on ICT and how ICT can boost the EU's economy. As the Government's interim Digital Britain Report highlighted, ICT is one of the sectors which we all rely upon to underpin our whole economy, as its effective utilisation can deliver productivity gains to our citizens and enterprises. This discussion will provide an opportunity to introduce our thinking for taking digital Britain forward, and listen to the plans and proposals other Ministers are considering to enable ICT to accelerate longer-term growth.

In addition to these two substantive items, there are four further items for which BERR has responsibility listed under any other business. The first of these will be an update from the council presidency on negotiations on a decision of the European Parliament and of the council on interoperability solutions for European public administrations (ISA Programme). The UK supports the proposed programme as its predecessors have proved successful in delivering guidelines, common frameworks, studies on cross-border communication and IT-enabled service platforms for the delivery of Community policies and activities.

The presidency will then provide information on the recent 112 Day. To mark 112 Day in the UK, I wrote to other government departments that could play a role in raising awareness of the pan-European emergency number. We are currently undertaking follow up work on this with the Foreign Office and Identity and Passport Service (IPS).

The Commission will then present its communication on mobilising information and communication technologies to facilitate the transition to an energy-efficient, low-carbon economy. The UK agrees with the aims of this communication which seeks to raise awareness of the potential ICT has to improve efficiency of European enterprises, including public sector, systems and processes.

Lastly, the presidency will provide an update on the review of the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services. On the same day as the council, the European Parliament is voting in Committee stage on this review package, followed by their plenary vote on the 22 April. I will shortly be writing to you with Explanatory Memoranda on the Commission's response to the Council common position, and will take the opportunity to update you on the progress of negotiations.

The Czech presidency is also hosting a ministerial lunch where Estonia is likely to be invited to make a presentation on its forthcoming conference on cyber security in Tallinn. Commissioner Reding will present the forthcoming communication on communication and information infrastructure protection. I understand the communication will recommend broad standards on the resilience of critical ICT infrastructure and on member states' national response capacity to ensure the provision of telecoms services.