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EU Warns Member States Over Independence of Telecoms Regulator

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The European Union has started infringement proceedings against Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden for breaching its rules on the independence of their national telecoms regulators.

"National regulatory authorities are the backbone of the EU Telecoms rules and are therefore central to fair regulation in our Single Telecoms Market", said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "The principle of independence of national regulators laid down in the EU Telecoms rules includes the rule of structural separation which prohibits state authorities with regulatory tasks in the telecoms sector to exercise activities associated with ownership and control of state-owned telecoms companies. I therefore call on Latvia and Lithuania to ensure full respect of the principle of independence for the regulatory functions performed by their national ministries. Furthermore, Sweden must ensure that a complete set of powers to deal with access and interconnection are at the disposal of its national regulator."

The Commission has decided that both Latvia and Lithuania will be sent letters of formal notice, the first stage of an infringement proceeding, because their respective ministries responsible for telecoms perform certain functions assigned to national regulators in the areas of numbering, frequency management and universal service while at the same time exercising, on behalf of the state, activities associated with ownership and control ('operational activities') in certain state-owned telecoms companies. This lack of structural separation could undermine the impartiality of their regulatory decisions. The Court of Justice in a recent judgment (6 March 2008, regarding Spain) held that where ministerial authorities hold regulatory functions, Member States must ensure that these authorities are not involved in such óÔéČ╦ťoperational activities'.

The Commission is also sending a letter of formal notice to Sweden since the national telecommunications legislation, as interpreted by Swedish courts, limits the powers of the Swedish national regulator (an agency separate from the ministry) in the settlement of certain disputes over interconnection agreements between telecoms operators.

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Tags: viviane reding  rsa  eu  european union  union  interconnection  Latvia  Lithuania  Sweden