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EU: Telecoms Council

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2009

Statement

Further to the Written Statement concerning the positions that HMG intended to take at the Telecommunications Council, held on 11 June 2009, I am pleased to be able to report back on the main conclusions and topics of discussion.

The Telecommunications Council took place on 11 June 2009 under the chair of the Czech presidency. Andy Lebrecht, the deputy permanent representative in Brussels, represented the United Kingdom. Much of the discussion was taken up by two main items, an informal and off-the-agenda discourse on the review of the EU regulatory framework from electronic communications networks and services and a formal table-round on European network and information security policy.

On the review after an introduction by the presidency (in which it regretted that it had been unable to preside over a final agreement), Commissioner Reding suggested that, while she understood the concerns of member states over the introduction of Amendment 138 (the clause that would make any internet disconnection subject to judicial review), she was more worried about a delay in the adoption of the framework that would occur if the council decided on a conciliation process. In response, the vast majority of member states said that they could not accept the EP amendment, some noting that it potentially interfered with national competencies. The UK noted that the amendment was unacceptable both in legal and policy terms, noting how it could constrain future decisions of the Government. In terms of a future conciliation process, the vast majority of member states (including the UK) indicated their wish to see discussion limited to Amendment 138 with other (agreed) issues not being reopened. Most member states were also happy to leave the question as to whether council should reject the whole package or just the better regulation directive, which contains Amendment 138, to the presidency.

The presidency concluded that, while a majority of member states wanted the framework adopted quickly, there was a strong majority that rejected Amendment 138 and so the next step would be conciliation.

On the formal discussion on European network and information security policy, Commissioner Reding introduced the Commission’s communication by noting that a breakdown in the critical telecoms infrastructure in the next five years was more likely now as a result of security flaws. She asked member states to take the threat seriously and to reflect on the role that the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) may need to take. She noted the Commission’s intention to publish proposals concerning the reform of the ENISA mandate by April 2010.

Following this, during a wide-ranging exchange of views, the majority of member states endorsed the need for a pan-EU (or even global) approach to information security and for enhanced co-operation between member states. All that spoke, with the exception of the UK and Hungary, also called for ENISA’s term and remit to be automatically extended. The UK, while also welcoming the Commission’s approach, noted that a future role for ENISA should be discussed within the context of an overall policy discussion on information and security and critical infrastructure protection.

The council then moved on to three items under any other business, the first of which was on “Internet of Things—An Action Plan for Europe—Information from the Commission”, where the Commission noted that it would shortly be issuing a communication on the matter; a report from the presidency on the ministerial conference entitled Safer Internet for Children (Prague, 20 April 2009), where the Commissioner thanked the presidency for an important conference; and “Internet Governance: The Next Steps”, where, Commissioner Reding noted the imminent publication of a communication addressing, among other issues, the future of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).