The European Regulators' Group (ERG) has officially passed on the baton to the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). The member states put up strong resistance to this body being created, but in the end it was given scaled-down ambitions by the telecoms package, the reform of EU rules for the sector. The new body will not be fully operational until around May 2011, to give member states time to transpose the new telecoms directives. In the meantime, the BEREC will continue work under way in the ERG.
The European Commission sees this body, made up of the 27 national regulators for the sector, as an "important stage for telecommunications in Europe". Yet the advantage of the BEREC over the ERG lies essentially in its two-thirds majority voting on most decisions, rather than unanimity, which will improve the credibility of its opinions.
Indeed, the body will only issue opinions: there is no question of national regulators imposing measures at EU level. The key issue in the debate over the BEREC concerned the strengthening of the Commission's powers through its establishment. The executive's powers were increased (see box), but it was not given a veto over national regulators' remedies for competition problems on European markets.
"2010 will be a very challenging year for the electronic communications sector throughout Europe. BEREC will play a full role in ensuring the further development of the EU-wide communications market for the benefit of all consumers and businesses," commented John Doherty, chair of ComReg, the Irish communications regulator, elected chairperson of BEREC for 2010, on 28 January. He added: "The purpose of BEREC is to ensure the consistent application throughout the EU of the regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services".
In 2010, BEREC will organise a public consultation on its work programme.
BRUSSELS OR ELSEWHERE?
The Commission initially sought to set up an EU agency with a full-time staff of around 110 people. In the end, BEREC will simply be assisted...