Untrammelled Power for Commission in Telecoms Regulation?

Nobody knows where the IRG begins and the ERG ends, Commissioner Reding complains to the European Parliament. 

You can see just how irritated the Commission is that the Independent (telecoms) Regulatory Group (IRG) with 31 European members should have been registered as a private company under Belgian law, to do things which (she believes) should be left to the 27-member European Regulators Group (ERG) set up by the Commission. IRG, she says, is (just like Belgian football) ”alien to the Community approach”.

The Commissioner was speaking on the proposals for a new framework for European telecoms currently being discussed in the EP and Council. What she wants is an EECMA, a European Electronic Communications Market Authority, which would combine the functions of the ERG with those of the European Network and Information Security Agency, the body set up in 2004 to deal with cyber crime and cyber terrorism.

The Commissioner is fighting the good fight to extend the power of a European regulatory regime to the 27 member countries of the EU. The Commission believes that national regulators are too protective of national markets and inconsistent in applying EU policy.

For many people, though, this is a fight too far.

The proposals do appear to give untrammelled power to the Commission in managing telecoms policy, with little scope for parliamentary scrutiny and a significant transfer of power to Brussels. EECMA seems to have scant right of initiative and almost no scope to act.

Commissioner Reding does push hard for consumer rights – her battle for capping mobile phone charges was highly successful in its own terms, although the operators will always seek other ways to restore their margins – and has some support in the Parliament and Council, but the proposal to protect the position of the heads of national regulatory bodies from dismissal will be contentious in the Council and the bid to make freed-up spectrum more freely available at a European level will face fierce opposition.

I look forward to seeing just how far the Commission succeeds in what is in effect a major centralisation of power in the highly sensitive sector of telecommunications.