EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

EU policymaking is predictable

Sir,

Viviane Reding’s proposal for a European Electronic Communications Market Authority (EECMA) has been turned down by the European Council and will be dismissed by the full European Parliament on September 23rd.

The information society commissioner’s failure should not come as a surprise to anybody familiar with the history of EU telecommunications. In my 2006 book, ‘Telecommunications policymaking in the European Union’, I explained that member-state opposition would block such an authority for the foreseeable future.

Since the early 1990s, numerous Commission officials have sought to establish a powerful EU telecommunications regulator. Each attempt has failed because it was met with forceful opposition by the member states. As a Council document dated June 6 this year explained, “almost all member states were against the creation of EECMA as proposed by the Commission”. Member states believe that a new transnational authority is unnecessary and instead want to strengthen existing institutional structures and enhance the coordination of national regulators.

Current developments in the electronic communications market parallel similar efforts to “unbundle” the EU electricity market. There, member states have also invoked subsidiarity to weaken Commission and EP efforts to shift regulatory authority to the European level. The Energy Council, on June 6 of this year, supported the idea of an “advisory” body at the European level. Called ACER, it would make recommendations on well-circumscribed tasks concerning cross-border issues only after consulting with national regulators and market participants.

Faced with forceful member-state opposition to the Commission’s proposal, a growing political fatalism can be seen in the approach taken by the European Parliament. Pilar del Castillo Vera MEP has proposed the creation of a new Body of European Regulators in Telecommunications (BERT) that will be composed of the 27 national regulatory authorities. Ms. del Castillo Vera’s proposal was approved by the European Parliament industry and internal market committees and was debated by the full European Parliament on September 2. Along with the Commission, BERT would be consulted by national regulators before major telecoms decisions could be taken.

By seeking to enhance current regulatory coordination between the member states rather than shifting regulatory authority to the European level, it is more likely that that the Council will reach political agreement on the much needed reform of the regulatory framework by the end of the year.

Joseph W. Goodman

Adjunct Professor of EU Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California

[Joseph W. Goodman can be reached at jgoodman@tjsl.edu. Dr. Goodman’s ‘Telecommunications Policymaking in the European Union’ is published by Edward Elgar Publishing, ISBN 1-84376-806-2.]

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