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On the 27th of June, the European Parliament LIBE Committee published an opinion on the directive establishing the European Electronic Communications Code. It was an opportunity for the Committee to share its concerns and propose amendments.

The project of a European Electronic Communications Code was first revealed during the State of the Union delivered by Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s President, in 2016. Its main objectives are to ‘improve connectivity and the creation of high-capacity networks, especially for Public services such as education, health, transportations’, etc.

Such goals require massive private investments completed by public entities’ funds and will allow for the possibility to create a Single Digital Market. The European Commission hopes, thanks to this project, to ‘increase competition and predictability for investment’, organise a ‘better use of radio-frequencies’ which are essential in wireless connectivity, guarantee a ‘stronger consumer protection’ and ‘a safer online environment for users and fairer rules for all players’.

A new Electronic Communications Code is necessary to adapt the European legislation to recent advancements in technologies and the way we use them. The previous regulation only applied to classical telecom providers. This is why the European Commission, followed by the Council and the European Parliament, wants to create new types of communication services (using the internet to connect people) bound by the European rules.

This Code project received opinions from European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy), CULT (Culture and Education) and LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) Parliamentary Committees.

The EESC ‘endorses the general thinking underlying the Commission’s proposal […] as well as its timing, the way it has approached the subject’ because it ‘aim[s] to introduce clear rules, allow[ing] parties to easily understand their rights and obligations’. The institution, however, has revealed some shortcomings in the European Commission proposal, especially considering the European citizens’ privacy, market fragmentation and the redefinition of the universal service regime. Considering this last point, the EESC is worried about a possible replacement of services such as ‘public payphones, comprehensive directories and directory enquiry services’ using the argument of modernising the legal framework.

The LIBE Committee’s opinion was published the 27th June. Before presenting the amendment, the committee explained its point of view on the European Electronic Communications project. The rapporteur welcomed the proposition of the Commission; and also brought some recommendations. He noted that the project lacks some guarantees such as the preservation ‘freedom of expression and information, media pluralism, cultural diversity, consumer protection, privacy and the protection of personal data’. These concerns are similar to the ones raised by the EESC. Amendments number 4 and 19, for instance, try to include further protection for those fundamental rights. He also recommended to widen the spectrum of communication services provided by the project ‘even when an interpersonal and interactive communication facility is an ancillary feature to another service’.

Pierre Angelloz-Pessey

Sources:

Morten, Helveg Petersen, Opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (Recast), LIBE Committee, June 2017.

Jorge Pegado Liz, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (Recast) (Document: EESC-2016-05296-00-01-AC-TRA), EESC, January 2017.

Press Realease, State of the Union 2016: Commission paves the way for more and better internet connectivity for all citizens and businesses, European Commission, 14 September 2016.

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