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The Council of Ministers latest stealth move on the Telecoms Package - it sneaks the Harbour report, withs its chilling Internet restrictions provisions, into law - and does so without a prior statement to the Parliament or European citizens.

Bureacrats at the Council of Ministers have taken a unilateral decision behind closed doors to split the Telecoms

Package and adopt part of it - before the negotations with the European Parliament are completed.

The decision was taken last week at a meeting of COREPER - this is the committee of deputy ambassadors to the EU which runs the Council of Ministers. It chose to break from the previously understood agreement that the three directives in the Telecoms Package are inter-linked, and therefore can only be adopted or rejected together. Instead, it has broken out the Harbour report - Universal Services and ePrivacy - and the Del Castillo report - on a pan-European regulatory body - and adopted them. Adoption means they will pass into EU law.

The adoption appeared on an agenda for Monday's meeting of the General Affairs council. It appears to have been put there without notice to the European Parliament. There was no discussion, the decision was simply rubber-stamped - which is why they did not need to put it to the specialist Telecoms Council. The only explanation forthcoming is that there was a deadline for adoption, because the vote was in May - however, this must be countered by the official line published on the European Parliament website in May, - that the three directives are linked and cannot be split.

It raises questions about the policy process and how it is being handled. Which is it - linked or split? And why is a committee of desk-men able to take a political decision of this nature without even notifying the Parliament?

The Harbour report will enable 3-strikes measures of the type announced yesterday by Lord Mandelson in the UK. It will permit broadband operators to block content, as Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica are blocking Skype. This cocktail of copyright enforcement measures and discretionary blocking by operators will create a patchwork of networks across the 27 EU countries, and risks destroying, not growing, the digital economy. This is contrary to the spin put out by the EU - those who suggest that there are good things these reports, should be explicit about the provisions they refer to and be prepared to debate them, which I note, they are not.

It is also in contradiction to US regulatory moves, which aim to preserve the open Internet and which have been set out by the FCC in a detailed policy document released earlier this week.

The Del Castillo report sets up a pan-European regulatory body, the problem is that it is toothless in the face of abusive behaviour by operators or governments.

For the full story of the Telecoms Package, see my book The Copyright Enforcement Enigma: Internet politics and the Telecoms Package

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009) Say hello to EU Internet restrictions http://www.iptegrity.com 29 October 2009.


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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.