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Czech Republic (Presidency of the European Union)
Statement by Mr. Jaroslaw Stepanek Counsellor, Permanent Mission

I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of the Czech Presidency of the European Union. As this is a policy forum, you have heard individual interventions of the EU Member States and the European Commission as well earlier in the debate.

I am sure that everyone here is fully aware of the significance that the electronic communications sector holds for the economy of the individual countries and for the economic growth of the European Union and for the national economy of all ITU Member States. There is no doubt that telecommunications, one of the pillars of the information and communication technologies will be and must be an important element in overcoming the current financial and economic crisis. The European Union is aware how painfully the current situation affects countries, especially developing ones.

Let me briefly inform you, on behalf of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, about the current events in terms of the fundamental plans in the sphere of regulation of the electronic communications sector, i.e. about the so-called EU Telecommunications package, as well as about other related topics which have been discussed in various European institutions in recent weeks.

It is by no coincidence that this year’s spring European Council, in its capacity of the supreme body of the European Union, saw the boost of investment into the electronic communications sector as one of the avenues leading out of the economic crisis in which Europe and the entire world find themselves today.

It is also the European Commission and a large number of the EU Member States which demonstrate in today’s discussions their awareness of the significance of the electronic communications sector, and which are prepared to provide their support to it, whether in the form of support for the development of infrastructure for high-speed internet or in the form of support to the information society services.

Ministers of the EU Member States declared at the ministerial conference on electronic communications in Prague that it would be necessary, in the interest of securing more investment into electronic communications, to ensure that a reasonable regulatory framework was in place to regulate this sector.

Such a regulatory framework will advance the competitiveness of the European companies on the global market and will allow for more innovative and high-quality services.

To this end, the European Union has been working for over one year on the new regulatory environment for electronic communications in Europe: the so-called EU Telecommunications package. The package comprises three legislative proposals tabled by the European Commission. These proposals review a total of five directives on the regulatory framework for networks and electronic communications services from 2002, and further introduce one brand-new proposal for the establishment of the European electronic communications market authority. The aim is to introduce new instruments, which would lead to the early conclusion of the unified internal market, stronger user rights, and the improvement of the position of European companies on the global telecommunications market. Further, it should also achieve a more extensive participation of the EU citizens and improve their security.

I am glad that I can announce here, at this important forum, that thanks to the great spirit of cooperation amongst the EU Member States, the European Commission and the European Parliament, we now have a strong chance to achieve the adoption of the EU Telecommunications package in the very near future.

Let me also mention one more achievement during the Czech EU Presidency in relation to the adoption of legislative measures related to the future of telecommunications in Europe: An agreement has been reached in relation to the amendment of the so-called GSM Directive whereby we send a strong signal to the industry that the 900MHz band may be used for other technologies besides the GSM. This is a step in the right direction and a step that will lead to the improvement of the quality of services and simultaneously to the reduction of costs, especially for the mobile Internet.

Among other EU measures, which will – no doubt – contribute to the overcoming of the current economic crisis, falls the Regulation on roaming prices. I want to stress here that this is an exceptional and temporary measure in the form of regulation. I believe that European citizens will benefit from the proposed price ceilings for voice and data services and that this regulation will not endanger economic competition on this specific telecommunication market.

The European Union is also aware of the importance of all topics contained in the agenda of this forum, and that is why its Member States will participate in finding solutions within the ITU framework for the benefit of global development of the ICT sector.

In conclusion, the Czech EU Presidency would like to extend its sincere thanks to the ITU, to its Secretary-General as well as to the host country, Portugal, for organising this forum, which is an important event for the much-needed development of ICT and for the formulation of ITU strategies for today and for the future.