The European Commission is going to study "very closely" an amendment just tabled by the French government that creates a function of government commissioner to the French telecoms regulator, ARCEP. The amendment concerns the bill that will transpose into French law the telecoms package, ie the Union's new regulatory framework for this sector, which the 27 member states must implement by May.
Rules on the independence of telecoms regulators "are very specific," said the spokesman for Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes, on 13 January in Brussels. The amendment was filed the day before and has already created tension between ARCEP President Jean-Ludovic Silicani and French Digital Economy Minister Eric Besson. The minister denied that the aim was to place the authority under supervision or to call its independence into question. ARCEP's president noted that "the line beyond which cooperation [with the government] could become confusion" had to be kept in mind.
The EU executive is very attentive to this principle of independence, said its spokesman. "Dialogue between the state's administrations and the regulator must not compromise the latter's independence." The regulator must be able to "exercise its powers in an independent and impartial manner," he added. The executive's spokesman also said that "the French state is a major shareholder in the incumbent operator," France Telecom.
The Commission is very familiar with this type of situation...