Eurogroup approves Portugal financial support package

A meeting of the eurozone’s finance ministers, known as the Eurogroup, was held in Brussels yesterday, with unanimous agreement to approve a financial and economic support package for Portugal.  The plan is based on a three-year economic adjustment programme which was negotiated between the Portuguese authorities and officials from the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB).

At a sector level, and under the known terms of the programme, through a raft of measures to be implemented between the 2nd quarter of 2011 and the 1st quarter of 2012, the plan aims to increase competition in the market by reducing barriers to entry, to guarantee network/infrastructure access and to strengthen the regulator’s powers.

Accordingly, the Portuguese government is bound to transpose Directive no. 2009/140/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009 (the 'Better Regulation Directive', applicable to the electronic communications sector), specifically strengthening ANACOM‘s independence.  The programme also covers the auction of radio spectrum as a means of opening up the market and the need to reduce mobile termination prices.

Provision is also made for non-discrimination with regard to the provision of the universal service, whereby the concession contract with the current provider of this service (PT Comunicações) needs to be re-negotiated and a new tender launched for the designation of the universal service provider(s).

With respect to increasing competition in the fixed communications market, the measures to be adopted include the lifting of restrictions on consumer mobility, as well as a review of entry barriers and the adoption of measures to reduce them.

In terms of postal services, the programme calls for the sector’s liberalisation, with the transposition of the Third Postal Directive, ensuring that ANACOM’s powers and independence are fitting to its increasingly important role in overseeing pricing and costs.

It is noted that, in general terms, the measures set out in the document which affect ANACOM’s remit are already contained in this Authority’s action plan for the current year, and are therefore either already under development, or are concluded, as far as ANACOM’s involvement in the transposition processes is concerned.

Meanwhile, in the chapter which address competition and the sector regulators, it is stipulated that, by the first quarter of 2012, the national regulatory authorities must be provided with the necessary levels of independence and the recourses they require to exercise their responsibilities.

As such, by the end of this year, an independent report is to be prepared (by internationally recognised experts) on the responsibilities, resources and characteristics which determine the independence of the main sector regulators. This report will examine the appointment practices, responsibilities, independence and resources of each regulator in the light of best international practice, and also in the context of their operation, their powers of intervention and the mechanisms for coordination with Autoridade da Concorrência (The Portuguese Competition Authority).

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