Plans for new EU telecom body to be stationed in Greece

Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for information society and media, has asked the Greek government to back the new measures she is to recommend to the College of Commissioners. Reding asked both Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis to back the telecom market measures she is to propose on November 13 for discussion and approval by the Commission. The measures include the functional separation of primary telecommunications providers and the creation of the European Commission for Telecommunications Regulation, a plan that could force some former phone monopolies in Europe to open their networks to greater competition. The measure relating to the functional separation, though objected to by the large telecoms organizations’ lobby, is believed to be an easier one to be passed by the Commission. According to the current planning, it would be up to the National Regulatory Authorities to implement the functional separation, as an instrument to enhance competition across the telecoms market, as well as to overcome the main network access bottlenecks when standard remedies have failed. National governments, unlike main telecom providers, have no reason to object to the measure, since it does not involve ceding any of their rights to Brussels. On the contrary, Reding has met strong resistance to the creation of the European Telecom Market Authority (ETMA), which certainly means ceding some rights to a central telecom market regulatory agency. Strong reactions Tough opposition to creating ETMA has already come from Britain, with many other governments expected to follow suit. Reding’s measures are largely seen as a step toward further Brussels bureaucracy, but she insists on pointing to the absence of a single telecom market in the EU. She believes the fact that each member state has its own regulatory framework poses certain advantages to some and disadvantages to others. Greece’s backing of Reding’s plans is believed to be to the country’s benefit. At her recent meeting with Karamanlis and Hatzidakis in Greece, Reding proposed that ETMA’s role be assumed by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), which is headquartered in Iraklion, Crete. She noted that the role of the existing agency would have to change, without however giving up its task of overseeing the security of electronic communications. Reding also promised that she would recommend to the Commission that ENISA’s operation, ending 2009, be extended for two more years. Many EU member state governments and agencies are against the plan, arguing that its location in Iraklion makes the agency especially hard to access.