European Commission to sanction Bulgaria?

Thomson Financial announced that the European Commission (EC) has started a procedure to sanction Bulgaria for the lack of independence of the national regulatory authority – the Communications Regulation Commission.

According to e-mail communications I had with Thomson Financial, “the news came from the European Commission during its midday briefing”, and it is a sign that Bulgaria is starting to feel the pressure from being a member of the EU.

Thomson Financial says that the EC is sending Bulgaria a letter of formal notice, the first step in infringement proceedings.

More – at the Thomson Financial site, or at Euro2day, which announced the news first (quoting TF)

update:

Commission opens infringement proceeding because Bulgaria’s telecoms regulator lacks independence and effectiveness

The independence of national telecoms regulators is a key element for ensuring the effective implementation of the EU Telecoms Rules. Under EU law certain minimum rules exist covering the independence of the national telecoms regulators. As the Commission has identified serious violations of the EU legal provisions in this respect in Bulgaria, it launched today infringement proceedings against Bulgaria.

National regulatory authorities are central to the EU Telecoms Rules,” said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. “A malfunctioning national regulator means malfunctioning telecoms markets. This in turn endangers the competitiveness of the Bulgarian economy, damaging both industry and depriving its citizens from the benefits of good telecoms regulation, notably cheaper prices and better, more innovative services. I therefore urge the Bulgarian government to work quickly to guarantee the independence of their national regulator, so that it can efficiently perform the tasks assigned to it.

The Commission is sending today Bulgaria a letter of formal notice, as a result of the reported lack of resources and problems in the decision making process within the Bulgarian national telecoms regulator, resulting from the long delay in appointing a Chairperson.

Core tasks of the regulator under existing telecoms rules, such as conducting market analyses, have not yet been undertaken. Regulatory decisions have therefore been significantly delayed or postponed. In addition, the incumbent telecoms operator’s board has amongst its members, the Chairperson of another authority with some regulatory competences – the State Agency for Information Technology and Communications. This raises a conflict of interest that may jeopardise the independence of the national regulator.

Neither meetings with the Bulgarian authorities nor several letters from the Commission have resolved these problems.

This is the second infringement proceeding recently opened against Bulgaria in the telecom sector. Last month, the Commission opened a case against Bulgaria over the lack of availability of the European emergency number 112 (see IP/07/1530).

Infringement proceedings for lack of independence of the national telecoms regulator are ongoing with regard to Poland (IP/07/888) and Slovakia (IP/06/1798).

Strengthening and safeguarding the independence of national regulators, notably from national governments, is a key feature of the proposed reform of the EU Telecoms Rules (see IP/07/1677).
A detailed overview of the state of infringement proceedings is available on the DG Information Society and Media’s implementation and enforcement website:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/implementation_enforcement/infringement/

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