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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. 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 29 October  2009. 



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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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