Parliament and EU Council conclude negotiations on the ''telecoms package''

The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the European Union (EU) reached an agreement last week, on 4 November, on the EU telecoms reform package, through a conciliation process.

Agreement was finally reached on the text of the provision that had generated so much controversy, according to which the restrictions on access to or use of services and applications via electronic communications networks by end-users may only be imposed if they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society. Such measures shall duly respect the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. Additionally a prior, fair and impartial procedure, including the right to be heard, shall be guaranteed, subject to the need to provide for conditions and appropriate procedural arrangements in duly substantiated cases of urgency, in accordance with the European Human Rights Convention. The right to effective and timely judicial review shall also be guaranteed.

Neither the original Commission proposal nor the Council's common position included such safeguards against the restrictions. However, the Parliament twice approved an amendment setting out that no restrictions may be imposed on the rights and freedoms of end users without a prior court decision. Subsequently the Council twice rejected this amendment, giving rise to the third and final stage of the EU legislative process - conciliation.

At a press conference, Asa Torstensson, Swedish Minister for Communications, stated as Chair of the Council that the agreement ''strengthens the competitiveness among enterprises and enhances the consumer protection in Europe, which will lead to more, better and less expensive broadband services and substantially stronger protection for all users of services and applications over electronic communication networks in Europe''.

For the rest of the package, on 26 October 2009, the Council adopted the amendments proposed by the Parliament, giving rise to the regulation establishing the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), seeking to enhance cooperation between national regulators and between national regulators and the European Commission. Likewise, the Directive was adopted amending legislation on privacy, universal service and consumer protection, strengthening consumer protection and rights of users of electronic communications services, facilitating access to and use of electronic communications by users with special needs and reinforcing the protection of privacy and personal data.
Now, for the telecommunications package to enter into force, the European Parliament and the Council must confirm this agreement, which they should do by the end of November 2009.

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