New telecommunications regulatory package is approved

The European Union's Council of Ministers approved, on February 14, the so-called 1999 Communications Review Package, including a directive on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (Framework Directive), a directive on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities (Access and Interconnection Directive), a Directive on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services (Authorisation Directive), a directive on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service and Users' Rights Directive), and a decision on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Union.

With the new regulatory framework, the Commission acquires greater powers through the possibility of exercising its veto right in two areas: definition of relevant markets and designation of operators with significant market power.

A fifth Directive, on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector, still awaits approval.

The new regulatory framework is technological-neutral, and aims to simplify operating rules of market agents and increase competition in this crucial economic sector.

Member States now have 15 months to implement this package into their respective national laws.

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