Full text 
Procedure : 2006/0133(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0155/2007

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 23/05/2007 - 3
CRE 23/05/2007 - 3

Votes :

PV 23/05/2007 - 5.2
CRE 23/05/2007 - 5.2
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


Wednesday, 23 May 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

3. Roaming on public mobile networks (debate)

  President. The next item is the report by Paul Rübig, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on roaming on public mobile networks within the Community and amending Directive 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (COM(2006)0382 C6-0244/2006 2006/0133(COD)) (A6-0155/2007).


  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to begin by expressing my sincere thanks to Parliament, because Parliament was among the first to focus attention on the problem of international roaming charges, which are one of the last remaining barriers to the single market. This political pressure pointed at the failure of the market and this has helped us to come up with a solution.

Now it is up to you, the parliamentarians, to complete the job by supporting this proposal today. The proposal on which you will vote is a product of intense discussions, even at times heated debates, among the institutions and with the stakeholders. The result is a solid, well-balanced proposal that will deliver tangible results for European citizens, putting an end to the long-running saga of excessive roaming charges as from this summer. The citizens are waiting for this action, for this Europe of results, and it is now in your hands not to disappoint them.

The Commission has completed its part of the job. In December 2004 I urged the operators to solve the problems by themselves. In October 2005 the Commission published a website for the purpose of bringing transparency to international roaming tariffs. At the same time I warned once again that should those prices not go down sensibly, the Commission would have to regulate. To my regret, the market did not respond and that is why on 12 July 2006 the Commission brought forward the proposal for the roaming regulation.

You have worked on this proposal, together with the Council of Ministers, under the leadership of the Finnish and German Presidencies. I would like to underline the excellent work of your rapporteurs, Mr Rübig, Mr Muscat, Mr Mavrommatis and Mr Losco. The result of this work is on the table today.

The Commission can very well accept the compromise text because the core elements, which the Commission always believed necessary, have been preserved. Those are: retail regulation, wholesale regulation, clear benefits for all consumers and transparency.

At retail level, each operator will have to offer a Eurotariff with maximum prices of EUR 0.94 for outgoing calls, to be reduced to 0.46 after 12 months and 0.43 after 24 months, and of 0.24 for incoming calls, to be reduced to 0.22 and 0.19 after 24 months. These caps represent a substantial reduction of up to 70% of the standard charges in today’s market.

The question now is: when will the customer benefit from those reductions? The answer is as soon as possible, this summer. To help ensure effective implementation, I have sent a letter to both Parliament and the Council, which sets out in detail how the retail provisions should apply in practice under the supervision of the national regulatory authorities.

First, the Council has to publish the regulation in the Official Journal. This should be done very swiftly after the meeting of the Council of Telecom Ministers on 7 June 2007. Then, the roaming customers’ operators must send an offer of a compliant Eurotariff to the customer within one month. The customer will be entitled to this Eurotariff one month after responding to the offer. This means that a proactive customer can benefit from the Eurotariff at the latest two months after the commencement of the regulation or even less than two months if his operator has taken a positive approach. Saying it clearly, this means August. Any customer that does not respond will be placed automatically on a Eurotariff three months after the commencement of the regulation. This means September.

The Commission will immediately start working with the national regulatory authorities to ensure that customers are treated properly. The regulation will protect the vast majority of ordinary customers who up to now have been heavily overcharged when travelling abroad.

The regulation also will protect the smaller operators by introducing ceilings at wholesale level. These ceilings are high enough to allow all operators, big or small, a reasonable margin. At the same time, they are sufficiently low to allow for competitive conditions for smaller operators, new market entrants and operators from smaller Member States. I hope and I expect that they will use this margin to come forward with innovative offerings at once.

The final plank of the regulation concerns the all-important element of transparency, which up to now has been sadly lacking. The main requirements are a push system, with basic price information, as well as a pull system, allowing consumers to get more detailed information, which will include prices for SMS and data.

I should like to say one word about the high roaming prices for mobile data. In cooperation with the national regulatory authorities, we will need to watch this market very closely. The operators should know this, heed these warning signals very carefully and bring the prices down to normal by themselves in order to avoid further regulation.

Finally, I should like to point out that this regulation will automatically cease to apply after three years, unless Parliament and the Council decide otherwise. I very much hope that this will not be necessary. However, what will be necessary is now the reform of the telecom markets, going from 27 separate markets to one single truly European market, taking advantage of the power of nearly 500 million consumers. This is the next task which is waiting for us.

However, today let us look at what has been achieved in the roaming dossier. It is very rare, if not to say unusual, to bring about an agreement on a legislative action in only 10 months. I am proud of the European institutions, which have shown that they are capable of listening to the consumers and to act swiftly in order to solve very specific problems. I count on a large majority in this House, which represents the European citizens, in order to complete the task now and to prove by such a majority that the Europe of practical results is a reality.



  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner Reding, rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs, ladies and gentlemen. Today, Parliament and the Council can be proud that we took seriously the Commission’s request for us to produce the Regulation on roaming by the end of summer. We all went into the talks assuming that this would go through the normal procedure with a second and third reading, given the extremely conflictual subject matter and the great disparity between the conflicting interests on the European market.

We had developed healthy competition on the national markets; but competition between the various Member States did not really exist. Now, millions of consumers are looking at their mobile phones – mobiles, as we call them – and waiting for the first offer to arrive, an offer that depends on when this Regulation is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Then we will hopefully be able to make calls on holiday or business trips, safe in the knowledge that the end of the month will not see a bill higher than the cost of the room or flight, but one within reasonable bounds. Roaming has to be like going into a restaurant and being handed a menu with the prices on. In future, when customers cross the border into a European country, they will receive a text message displaying their personalised tariff and a freephone mobile number on which they can call their home provider and ask the cost of a text message, MMS or data transfer. This transparency alone will achieve a great deal, and I am proud that it can be introduced for all services, not only voice telephony.

We have also mentioned the flat rate, of course – an all-inclusive flat rate that can be offered within a certain period, whereby customers know at the end of the month exactly what they will have to pay. This is the challenge, namely in comparison with land lines, broadband, Voice over IP and many other new technologies. This Regulation opens up a considerable market opportunity for UMTS and GSM, including in the future. It has been a pleasure for me, therefore, to hold intensive discussions with Mr Paasilinna on such customer-friendliness issues in the field of roaming. Our first discussion with Mr Muscat is still fresh in my memory, when we asked whether there would be an ‘opt-in’ or an ‘opt-out’ solution. We agreed that there did have to be a solution. That was the crux of the matter – that we realised: there is a real need for action, it has to happen quickly, it has to be efficient, and then we can stage it accordingly.

We worked on the outermost regions very intensively with Mr Mavrommatis. I hail from the Alpine country of Austria – where transmitter costs are different from those in lowland countries. In the next few months, the Commission will be examining in detail the future possibilities in this regard. This Regulation is also of interest to regulators, since for Member States’ regulators, too, it opens up brand new possibilities for active involvement in the field of roaming and for seeking out what is ideal for consumers.

Also new is the approach of better lawmaking. We have managed, at long last, to draw up a Regulation that automatically expires after three years, and we would ask the Commission to ensure that competition is really under way after these three years. I would also ask the Council and its representatives to press for the Regulation to be published in the Official Journal as soon as possible, as millions of European consumers are waiting to finally see a Regulation on this from which they, too, can benefit. I should like to express my particular thanks to this House. Our services did an excellent job: four days after the agreement with Coreper, all translations were present. This was excellent work in this House, and I am proud of the staff who made it possible for us to work so efficiently.



  Joachim Wuermeling, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Rübig, ladies and gentlemen, it is a double pleasure for me to speak here. On the one hand, it is apparent that one of the main dossiers of the German Presidency can potentially be brought to a successful conclusion; and, on the other hand, it is a personal pleasure for me to return to this familiar hemicycle, where I still feel at home.

Agreement between the Council and Parliament was extremely difficult to achieve. There were tough negotiations; but it was a fair fight. We should like to extend the warmest of thanks to the rapporteur for his constructive conduct of the negotiations, and to the chairmen of the committees for acting as mediators while at the same time standing in solidarity with Parliament. We should like to thank our colleagues in the Council, who endorsed this compromise with great difficulty. The compromise reached is necessary in terms of consumer policy, economically justifiable, and welcome from the European angle. It is necessary in terms of consumer policy because, basically, there was no way of escaping the conclusion that we were looking at market failure. There was no market in this field. Consumers had no choice as regards their tariff, and, basically, the fact of their crossing borders within the European Union was being used to charge high prices. That was unacceptable to us. Now consumers are being relieved of a huge burden, a fact I warmly welcome on behalf of the Council.

The compromise is also economically justifiable. The EU unanimously backs the internal market. The market in mobile phones, in particular, is very dynamic, and it works at domestic level, as everyone can see. For this reason, we set store by not introducing a uniform tariff for all roaming contracts in the EU, but instead imposing a ceiling to rule out abuse. The Council considered it very important that the ceilings did not fall below a certain level, to enable a suitably dynamic market to develop beneath these limits. We hope that enterprises and also consumers engage in sensible market operation beneath this Eurotariff, that this results in a greater variety of offers, and also that consumer behaviour orients itself accordingly.

The European Union has shown its capacity for action. The Council Secretariat, too, will make every effort to enable the Regulation to be published in the Official Journal as soon as possible – although a certain amount of time is required for this. A decision has to be taken by the Committee of Permanent Representatives and a formal decision by the Council. We hope we shall succeed in having it published in the Official Journal on 29 June, so that it can take effect accordingly in the summer recess.

I would be pleased if a broad consensus in favour of our compromise could be achieved in plenary today. As President-in-Office of the Council, I promise to do my utmost to ensure that the same happens in the Council, so that we have a Europe of results to show ahead of the important European summit.


  President. Thank you very much, Mr Wuermeling. It is a pleasure for this House to have you here again, albeit in a different role, but still serving the interests of Europe.


  Andrea Losco (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, today is a great day for the citizens of the European Union: thanks to the compromise reached on the proposal for a regulation on roaming, around 500 million European citizens will be directly affected by the decisions we take. Firstly, this will include tourists, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, which will at last be able to benefit from the reductions of the new Eurotariffs.

Less than a year ago it was difficult to imagine such a compromise, and I am delighted to support it as draftsman for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, which was the first to become immediately aware of the importance of speeding up the process.

From the outset we identified mandatory principles to work from, a European tariff to protect consumers and greater transparency for retail prices. As a liberal democrat I would have preferred to achieve the goal of cutting prices for a product or service by means of healthy competition among market operators, rather than via a dirigiste measure regulating prices directly; however, the fact remains that the normal rules of competition have thus far failed to work in this particular sector.

I would like to express my full support for this one-off measure, introduced for a limited period as a response to a one-off situation. I would also like to congratulate Mrs Reding on her excellent work, and all those who have contributed over the last few months towards this significant and tangible result. This represents another milestone on the road to completing the internal market, which will eliminate the unfairly high international roaming charges once and for all, and will also topple one of the final remaining barriers among the peoples of the European Union. The decision taken by Parliament today will speak directly to around 500 million European citizens.


  Joseph Muscat (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. (MT) Thank you, Mr President. Today we are sending out a strong and clear message stating that where there is a distortion of market laws and if the consumer is not being treated fairly, then the European Union, and this Parliament in particular, is prepared to act. We have all heard about the cuts in roaming charges, which are going down by more than half. Personally, I believe, as does my group, that the charges could have been reduced further. However, we are prepared to take the good with the bad and to compromise, because if we waste any more time, consumers will be the ones to suffer. This is a significant victory for consumers. We have armed them with the best weapons – information and transparency. Now, upon their arrival in another European country consumers will automatically receive a message informing them of how much they will be charged when using their mobile phones. Moreover, operators are now obliged to provide a helpline free of charge in order to supply their clients with any help or information they require on the subject. In addition, specific help will be provided for the visually impaired. We want to see these regulations cause an increase rather than decrease in competition. We are aware that there are small and independent operators that are concerned that they will find themselves at a disadvantage. This is why we required the Commission to examine, and issue reports on, the situation of these operators. I will now move on to what is considered to be the most crucial point. It is well known that I was among those who were most insistent that these European tariffs ought to apply to all consumers. However, the Council insisted - in my opinion with equal force - that, in order for this tariff to apply, the consumer would have to request it from the operator. I will not delve into another argument on which this proposal favours the consumer more, because I believe that the facts are obvious. However, we accepted this compromise, firstly because, if we had not done so, we would not have had a regulation, and secondly because the Commission issued a statement during the negotiations saying that it was positive that around 80% of European consumers would automatically benefit from this European tariff. In addition, most of the other 20% are already paying a price that is comparable to the European tariff, and these mostly include businesses and persons with specific contracts. This means, therefore, that the most vulnerable consumers will be protected. To conclude, it is worth noting that the letter sent by Commissioner Reding explains that national regulators, together with the Commission, will monitor the process that will determine which consumers are going to benefit automatically from this European tariff. This is an extremely important process and, through it, we are proving that this Parliament is indeed in a position to respond.



  Manolis Mavrommatis (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education.(EL) Commissioner, after a process lasting approximately six months, one of the most important reports concerning the proposal for a regulation on roaming on mobile networks has come before plenary in the European Parliament to be voted on.

I should like to congratulate Mr Paul Rübig on his excellent work and on his special cooperation with the Commission and the Council, which has brought us today’s very positive results, especially for 150 million consumers.

On the same level, I must congratulate Commissioner Reding both on her decision to propose the regulation on roaming and her robust stand in the face of reactions from exogenous players and for going along with the rapporteurs and the members of Parliament’s committees. Congratulations also to the honourable Members involved in consultations with the Council and the Commission.

Allow me to highlight in particular the point relating to mobile telephone companies and the European Parliament. This is not trench warfare between the two sides. It is, however, part of the right of citizens to seek protection from their parliamentary representatives when they see that their interests are becoming the subject of exploitation by the monopoly tendencies of large companies.

As draftsman for the Committee on Culture and Education, I have tried, in harmonious cooperation with my honourable friends in all the political groups, to find a common line which satisfies everyone. The amendments adopted by our committee gave the rapporteur the opportunity to approach the question of roaming from a different angle because, apart from the commercial and financial factor, culture, education and the media are an important part of every day life in our society.

Businesses, journalists, people of the arts and letters travel every day. Large families take holidays throughout the year. They spend money. Mobile telephones are necessary and useful, but they must not become an excuse for exploitation by the companies. Need does not mean weakness.

The regulation on roaming, as amended, is the regulation we are being called on to adopt today in the European Parliament. A vote in favour of the report will be a victory for Parliament for the benefit of consumer protection. It will be a big step which breathes new life into the internal market.



  Angelika Niebler, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, today we have good news for European citizens: the cost of using mobile phones in Europe is going down.

Parliament has been calling for transparency in the tariff jungle for many years. Prices have been exorbitant and also the opposite of transparent. We all know the scenario: you check your mobile bill after your holiday in another European country, to discover that the few phone calls you have made or received have incurred horrendous charges. This is definitively a thing of the past.

In future, everyone will enjoy a reasonable tariff – which I particularly welcome. This really represents a great triumph for our Parliament. The President-in-Office has already mentioned our weeks of tough negotiations with the Council. We can be really proud of the result we shall have achieved – the cost of a roaming call within Europe will be EUR 0.49 per minute at first, EUR 0.46 the next year, and EUR 0.43 the year after that.

I should like to say a few words to enterprise and industry. I believe we all knew that market regulation, and regulation of retail tariffs in particular, is a very sharp instrument. Since the market had not developed in the way we had envisaged over the years, we all agreed that political intervention was needed. However, this is a special case, of course, a one-off situation. It is important to emphasise that Parliament does not now mean to strive for price regulation in other fields, too; instead, this is a precedent that will hopefully not need to be repeated. Even developments over the last few months, since the Regulation has been on the table, have shown the amount of new-found movement on this market. These developments show that we were right, that our political impetus was appropriate.

I should like to close by giving my sincere thanks to our rapporteur, Mr Rübig, who has conducted many months of negotiations on this. I am also obliged to my fellow Members in the negotiating team – it was not easy to assert our position against the Council – and to the Commissioner for her courage in presenting this Regulation. Finally, my sincere thanks to the secretariat of the committee and to the translators, who have managed to present this Regulation in 23 languages in just a few days. This is sensational, and shows that Europe works well and is committed to implementing its objectives.



  Reino Paasilinna, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FI) Mr President, I wish to thank the Commissioner and everyone for their excellent levels of cooperation. My group supports the compromise which has now been reached and will be voting in favour of it shortly.

This law will have a direct impact on the lives of tens, if not millions, of people, and make their lives easier. We have been speaking here for years about network charges. The telecommunications package was discussed five years ago with Mrs Niebler. A paragraph on this matter was added to it. At the time, of course, she was rapporteur for the framework law. Now, however, prices are tumbling, which is good news for the consumer. We get advertisements for mobile phones, but no information about charges, and something definitely needs to be done about this. It is quite incredible that some operators call it competition when the purchaser does not receive any information on the prices of products and prices are kept at cartel-like levels. As a result, only a few travellers use their phone abroad. That, on the other hand, harms the principle of free movement and makes it hard to achieve the Lisbon objective of becoming a leading knowledge-based economy.

Mobile communications are a way of internationalising everyday life. Furthermore, phones will then be used more, and more business will be generated; so it is of benefit to companies also. It is vital to have an internal market which is viable, and that must also apply to mobile communications. The interests of the consumer have now been safeguarded and fairness has won through. I would like to ask the Commission how and when it intends to put forward a proposal on data communications. Naturally this would have to be considered carefully first.



  Šarūnas Birutis, on behalf on the ALDE Group. (LT) Mr President, colleagues, today we have to vote on an item of legislation, the positive results of which will very quickly be felt by all European consumers and businesses, and, to state it plainly, by us ourselves.

The approximate annual volume of the European Union's international cross-network communications market is about EUR 8.5 billion. That accounts for almost 6% of the general mobile communication industry's revenue, which amounts to about EUR 150 billion per year.

Cross-network prices affect at least 147 million European Union citizens, of which 110 million are users from the business sector.

At the moment, about 70% of Europeans going abroad turn off their mobile telephones because of the prohibitive cost of using them abroad. The problem is complicated by the fact that there is no transparency in retail prices, because there is no competition in this sector.

Naturally, when we are able to talk more cheaply we will talk more. Therefore, telephone service providers will not really lose income, and at the same time consumers will benefit and Europe's business competitiveness will feel a positive influence.

In a Eurobarometer survey the vast majority of almost 25 000 respondents were in favour of a compulsory reduction in prices of cross-network communication in Europe.

However, I would like to re-emphasise an opinion that I share with many colleagues; namely, that any interference in the market is not something to be welcomed, and this regulation is just a temporary compulsory measure to regulate the market.

I think that three years is the maximum amount of time needed not only to lower prices, but more importantly, that will be the time limit for closed national markets to coalesce into a united European market in this sector. That is the final goal of this regulation.

I congratulate European Parliament rapporteur Paul Rübig, the shadow rapporteurs, the Chairman of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy,Angelika Niebler, Commission Member Viviane Reding, Commission and Council representatives, and all consumers and service providers on finding this excellently coordinated solution.

Discussion of the cross-network communication regulation did not proceed easily. Each statement was explored in depth, and there was discussion about each tariff and the conditions for applying it. Here Parliament showed unexpected rationality and cohesion.

I am counting on a unified positive vote in Parliament today, a positive response from the Council on 7 June, and a prompt proclamation (not, as we were told, on 29 June) in the official journal, with the regulation coming into effect during the forthcoming summer holidays.


  Romano Maria La Russa, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the proposal for a regulation on roaming charges is a subject in which citizens take a keen interest, and therefore requires us to ensure the best possible protection without ignoring the needs of industry. We can however note with satisfaction that we have witnessed all the political groups taking responsibility for this, which will certainly not have been what European users were expecting. This is a regulation that will bring Europe still closer to its citizens.

Following long negotiations, particularly with the Council and the Commission, to enable us to reach an agreement at first reading, the compromise solution formally reached only on Monday evening can please everyone, even if more could clearly be done. It would clearly have been possible to reach an agreement on figures closer to consumers’ expectations, as confirmed, moreover, by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, if only the Member States had not opted initially for much higher charges more favourable to operators. The compromise is valid, however, setting maximum charges for the retail market of 49 cents for outgoing calls and 24 cents for incoming calls; in other words representing a cut of around 50% compared to the standard charges.

I believe we have found a successful solution in providing for the protective charges or ‘Eurotariff’ to be applied automatically to all users three months after the entry into force of the regulation, leaving users free to choose tariffs that they may think are better for them. In the future this will prevent users travelling abroad on business or on holiday from becoming victims of unfair charges, as is unfortunately the case today.

The compromise will still leave a profit margin for operators, who may nonetheless benefit from increased mobile telephone use in the future. In the interests of greater transparency, I consider the requirement for operators to inform users by providing personalised information on their tariff plans to be an achievement. I am somewhat less convinced by the gradual reduction of tariffs spread over three years, although this is understandable in a spirit of compromise. Perhaps a more diligent market would have cut prices further than this regulation can do over three years. It is equally true, however, that where the market has failed through a lack of transparency about excessive prices and a presumed abuse of power, regulation of both wholesale and retail is not only desirable but absolutely necessary.


  David Hammerstein, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (ES) Commissioner, thank you for your courageous work. Thank you, Mr Rübig, we have reached a good conclusion, we have a compromise and we have set an historic precedent.

We in the European Parliament have acted with unusual unity in order to break a taboo. The taboo of regulating the market at European level in such an important area as telecommunications. Yes, in this process we have given the European citizens a practical example of what the European Union is for.

We support the compromise despite the fact that it falls short for consumers in certain respects. Because the European Parliament has spoken out against the outrageous robbing of users, who pay scandalous tariffs and are not even told what they pay. We have stood up for consumers. We have reached a fairish compromise, but it is not entirely fair for consumers.

There will be lower prices for the majority, but they could have been considerably lower. There will be much more transparency and information. It could just have been a bit better for existing customers, but during the negotiations and during the trialogue we have seen some of the more positive aspects of the European institutions and some of the more negative ones.

We have seen two opposing positions in this debate. On the one hand, Parliament has generally defended the interests of its voters, the consumers, and on the other, the Council – the Member States – have vigorously defended the commercial interests of the big operators, of the national champions, of the ‘telecoms’ and the ‘telefónicas’.

Why have the MEPs, who represent the same majorities as their governments in the Council, in the Member States, defended such entirely different positions?

There is no question that the same transparency — the same complete openness — is needed in the Council as we have here in this House, because there – in the Council — the asphyxiating pressure of the industrial lobbies has had a great influence on this issue and has restricted our ability to reach an even better agreement.

We support this agreement insofar as it is a step forward. It is a step forward that sets the precedent of being able to regulate a market which has not been able to regulate itself in a fair manner. This Parliament is showing the way. We also have to learn from this experience in order to create European institutions that are increasingly transparent, open and accessible to the interests of the majority of the citizens.


  Umberto Guidoni, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, today’s result – that is, the compromise we have reached – represents a recognition of the failure of the market in that ability to increase competition while cutting prices which it is always claimed to have. It seems difficult to argue that the current charges in a naturally cross-border sector such as mobile telephones should be able to maintain those tariff systems that took no account of the European common market.

Consumer protection has therefore been entrusted to politics, and the Commissioner has done well to bring this issue to the fore. It should be pointed out that Parliament has responded with energy and great unity. Within this debate, however, our group’s concern has been to guarantee a fair price for all, that is the choice normally described as ‘opting out’, in contrast to the position of the Council, which has for the most part accepted the arguments put forward by the major telecommunication groups, to apply the charge only to those customers who request it.

The decision to apply the Eurotariff to everyone is a core aspect of the Commission’s proposal and represents a step towards transparency and safeguarding consumer interests. The margins left for the telecommunications companies are still too high, but I believe that the principle of capping tariffs sets a significant precedent and may contribute towards cutting charges, as it has indeed already done. We accepted the compromise because of the urgency of intervening in a situation of oligopoly among companies at the expense of consumers.

The Commission and Parliament have sent out a strong message; it is now crucial that we insist on transparency in its implementation through the national regulatory authorities, and on a review in three years’ time. This is an ideal way of showing citizens that the European institutions can provide practical answers to issues that no State can resolve on its own.


  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, it is not often I find myself in this position, but this morning I have to acknowledge what the European Union is doing. In fact I have come along to say thank you: thank you on behalf of international business. You know the kind – the companies that employ thousands of people who are travelling around Europe the whole time – the ones that make billions in profits. They are going to be big beneficiaries of this. And I want to say thank you on behalf of the super-rich in Europe – not the people that just go to Benidorm for a fortnight, but those that travel regularly. They too will be beneficiaries.

But above all, I want to thank you personally. I use this piece of kit an enormous amount. Your proposals are going to make me personally better off by EUR 3000 a year. In fact, I wish to declare an interest. I will not be voting on the Rübig report, as I am personally affected by it, and I would recommend that other MEPs abstain from the vote. We should not be voting on issues which will help to line our own pockets.

The truth is that this is just a giant publicity stunt, is it not? You want to be loved. You want the EU to be loved, so you are telling people they are going to be better off. Frankly, it smacks of Communist central planning when bureaucrats and politicians think they know what the right market price is. They are always wrong. This will lead to higher costs for domestic consumers. It will lead to less competition and innovation in the market place. It is yet another giant EU folly.


  Giles Chichester (PPE-DE). – Mr President, moving on from the sour grapes you have just heard, I would like to say this measure represents a win-win situation for the EU because we are actually doing something practical for our consumers. It has been a long time getting here but now we are here I hope very much that we can implement this measure quickly and that the operators will take the hint and change their tariffs quickly. I hope that they will see the benefit of cutting their prices through getting additional business – even from my colleague sitting way over there.

We are addressing a market failure. A specific market failure but a short-term one I hope, and it is significant that we have the sunset clause to show that we expect this situation to be rectified and competition to assert itself in this part of the market. We owe it to innocent tourists and consumers to save them from suffering that nasty shock when they come back from travelling on holiday – or even business – of being charged for receiving a call and having a huge bill. We owe it to them to fix it. We may hope for something like 60% savings on the average charge for a roaming call, and this is of material benefit to our consumers.

I am very glad that my amendment requiring the operators to give information, the ‘icon’ amendment, has been incorporated into the text. I am grateful for that. And I would like to pay tribute to the consensus across Parliament between the groups, along with the Commission, the Council, consumer groups, and the regulators, in supporting this measure.

Finally, I would like to recommend to colleagues my favourite mobile phone ring tone. Please listen carefully. It is called silence mode.


  Robert Goebbels (PSE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we must limit the excessive prices charged to the 200 million Europeans who use their freedom of movement within the Union. As the real cost for operators is between 6 and 15 cents per minute, the cumulative price for one minute of active or passive roaming that is provided for by the regulation leaves operators substantial margins.

The advocates of the unbridled free market ought, moreover, to reflect on the failure of their theory faced with the harsh reality of the telephony market. The liberalisation of this sector was helped by a technological revolution that made an increase in supply possible. The enthusiasm of the general public for mobile telephones, SMSs, etc., has not led to genuinely attractive prices. Economies of scale, productivity gains and the huge expansion of the communications market have not resulted in more favourable tariffs. Consumers have merely been confronted with non-transparent offers tying them to a particular operator. Vodafone, Télécom and other operators in the Telefónica Group swear allegiance to the internal market provided that they can maintain the internal borders for tariff purposes.

The political power had a duty to intervene in the market, which is usually so sacred. This is a first in the Union, a welcome precedent. The Commission was still raging about prices, but the roaming dossier proves that the market at times needs the visible hand of the public powers, especially in the case of such a failing market as the telecommunications market.


  Toine Manders (ALDE).(NL) Mr President, I would like to make a point of welcoming two former MEPs, Mr Wuermeling and Mrs Reding, who have returned to their former inferior abode, and thank them for their contribution to this proposal, which is bound to benefit the European consumer.

It may strike you as unusual that, whilst I, as a Liberal, am vehemently opposed to interference in consumer rates, certainly in the free market, where the Commission and Parliament claim that conditional competition leads to a better price and more innovation, I will be voting in favour of this in order that we may be able to do something about consumer prices.

You may well wonder why; I am doing this because the Commissioner – and I hope that this has dawned on the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy – has spelled out that three years from now, we will boast a European market, rather than 27 individual markets scraped together within their own national borders, because that – as I see it – is where the problem lies and that is where telephone providers take advantage.

It is interesting to know that most consumers who pay high roaming rates and who do not get these reimbursed by their employers or via other schemes, are holidaymakers. They tend to phone each other up from one ski lift or deck chair to the next, and while they may be lounging in a Spanish deck chair five metres away from their friends, the call is directed to the home country before it comes back.

This has to stop. I think it is good that we should give the industry an incentive and that we can look forward to a properly functioning internal market for mobile phone calls in three years’ time, when we will be able to leave roaming behind, and consumers will be able to choose where they conclude their contracts.

There is something else I should like to share with you. I was surprised to hear that the rate is exclusive of VAT. Everyone talks about EUR 0.49 maximum. Since this is exclusive of VAT, the consumer is, in some sense, being offered a carrot, because this means that another 20% is added anyway.

I also hope that the basic contracts, not the calling per minute therefore, the basic contracts, for which no specific arrangements are in place, will not end up being misused, for we will have to intervene again if they are. I hope –Commissioner and Mr Wuermeling – that the system will work, and that we can ensure that the consumer is happy about Europe, but, above all, that the internal market will start to function properly.


  Adam Bielan (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to join those congratulating and thanking Mr Rübig for his report, and have no doubt that today will be a very important day for the European Parliament and several hundred million citizens of the European Union. We now have the chance to prove to our electorates that the European Parliament is a necessary institution and one that deals with issues that concern them.

The issue of excessive roaming charges imposed on consumers by international telecoms giants is something that has upset Europeans for many years. Telecommunications companies failed to compete on price, which is what should happen in a proper market, preferring, as numerous experts believe, to collude and fix roaming charges. Over the years, millions of tourists and small and medium-sized enterprises have suffered from this practice. We can now put an end to this unjust exploitation – which, although it may sound like a socialist slogan, is what it is, as the speeches of my colleagues from the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in this House attest.

Like many others, this regulation would not be necessary if the market were governed by healthy and transparent principles of competition. Our position is to stand up for the citizens of the European Union, who have clearly been subjected to a conspiracy that undermines the market. Thanks to the decisive stance of this House, including my group, we have successfully shown our partners in the Council and the Commission that we will not allow regulations to be watered down, or allow consumers’ interests to continue to be flouted.

Already this summer, EU citizens will be able to speak with their families, as well as with companies abroad, at much lower rates. Call charges will be substantially reduced to a maximum of 49 cents per minute for outgoing calls and 24 cents per minute for incoming calls, and these prices will fall even further in the coming years. I share the view expressed by others in this House and hope that these prices will fall more rapidly than in the compromise proposal.


  Gisela Kallenbach (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, I agree that this is good news for holidaymakers, business travellers, MEPs and other people away in various European countries. There will be an end to the substantially inflated prices in the field of mobile telecommunications, and the competition so often discussed will actually take place, to the benefit of consumers. It is good news that Europe is prepared to enforce common rules against monopolistic interests.

Unfortunately, there is a drop of bitterness in all this. Parliament’s proposals have been watered down thanks to the individual interests of service providers and the monopolies these hold in a number of Member States. In addition, the compromise reached on end prices for consumers is considerably higher than the Commission proposal – which cannot, on the whole, be considered anti-industry. This is bad news for Community law, but a proper and vital first step towards improving the situation for consumers. For this reason, I, too, should like to thank everyone who has contributed to this and ensured that consumers of mobile-telecommunications services will enjoy greater transparency and freedom of choice in future.


  Miloslav Ransdorf (GUE/NGL).(CS) I should like to make five remarks to explain why I support this compromise, which has proved so difficult to achieve. Firstly, if critics say that this is not a solution that conforms to the market, they should remember that the main problem arose over whether the market itself conforms to the market. If not, then market correction must take place, as has happened here. As the Commissioner said very clearly, attempts at rectifying the situation have been made before. Secondly, I wish to say that this area will at last fall into line with the principles on which our Union is based.

Thirdly, it is very important that there is, to some extent at least, equal access to information on the market. A certain level of equal access to information is, as Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel prize for economics once said, one of the preconditions for the smooth functioning of the market. Fourthly, even though equal access to information has been significantly strengthened in this area, freedom of choice has been safeguarded. It is very important to us that competition can take place.

Fifth and lastly, this is not, as some would have it, a nil-nil result but rather a win-win situation for all, as Mr Chichester pointed out. Furthermore I am delighted to discover that in Mr Farage we have a specialist in the functioning of the former national planning committees. It is interesting that Parliament too is faced with historic questions.


  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – (SV) Over the last 15 years, we in Europe have seen radical developments, with reduced prices for mobile phone calls. There are few areas in which prices have fallen as much as within this particular area. This has been the case, above all, with national calls, but also with international ones – a state of affairs that is worth remembering on a day like today. The problem has been that, as the Commissioner pointed out, we have 27 different markets instead of one. I would therefore congratulate both the Commissioner and the rapporteur, Mr Rübig, on the fact that we are today obtaining a decision that will mean increased transparency and also on the fact that we shall obtain regulation of competition between mobile operators and retailers. This will solve the crucial problem that has led to unduly high roaming fees. In this way, conditions more favourable to competition are being created.

This, I believe, is where we should have stopped, and I therefore regret the fact that we now also have a proposal on the regulation of prices at consumer level. All experience shows that the desired goal is not achieved through price regulation. We are in danger of fixing price development irrevocably around the regulated level. We are in danger of reducing the pressure for increased competition between different operators to lower the prices of both national calls and roaming. We are in danger of not getting to see the kind of rapid price reductions we have seen in the past. Without exaggerating these dangers, I wish to say that it would have been better if we had been satisfied with regulating the area in which we have a problem, namely that of the price differential where retailers and operators are concerned. I say this because the task of the European Union is not, and should not be, to regulate prices at consumer level. The EU should do what the Commissioner indicated earlier today that we should do, namely ensure that we move from having 27 different markets to having just the one. That is where a dynamic is to be found, and that is what we should concentrate on: not on regulating consumer prices but on regulating in such a way that we obtain all-round and constructive competition between operators.




  Hannes Swoboda (PSE). (DE) Mr President, I would like to start by thanking the Commissioner for her initiative and Mr Rübig and the other rapporteurs for the splendid work they have done. There has indeed been a failure of the market, which, although some deny it, does sometimes happen, and in this instance it was absolutely vital that we intervene by capping prices.

We are thinking above all of the consumers, although we have no desire to harm the industry – far from it. We are calling on the industry and businesses to do as much as they possibly can to win themselves new consumers and, by means of new, good, and advantageous packages, to make up for the losses that they may sustain from time to time. What is vitally important is that this regulation should, albeit after a short time lag, be of real benefit to consumers and that no tax on ignorance be payable by those who are less well informed.

I really would ask you, Commissioner, to do everything possible to make this regulation known to our consumers and thereby to show them what the Commission and this House are doing for Europe, for that can do more than many abstract debates about the European Constitution to persuade Europeans that the EU really is necessary.


  Lena Ek (ALDE). – (SV) It is a fundamental principle that it is not the European Union’s task to regulate prices everywhere in the market. However, the basic treaty gives us the ability, as well as the responsibility, to protect consumers and to ensure that the market operates and that we have fair and open competition. In this case, we have, for many years, received very clear signals from despairing parents with children studying abroad, from older people who have not read the small print in their telephone agreements and also from parts of the industry, complaining that this market does not operate. It is neither transparent nor fair.

That is why we have been working on the roaming issue since we were elected to the European Parliament three years ago. The problem was addressed as long ago as during our first discussion with Commissioner Reding. For a period of three years, we – the Commissioner, the Council and Parliament – have together tried, through price comparisons and open recommended prices – to ensure that the market voluntarily corrects the shortcomings that exist. It has not done so. The major distortions have remained unchanged. This legislative proposal therefore comes as no surprise, and I welcome it because it is our task to ensure that we have proper competition in the internal market. Our task is to take strategic and systematic decisions that prepare the way for an open market function, and I hope that, in the course of the next three years, the industry will ensure that it changes its business methods and reports on, and clarifies, the price situation for its customers. I hope too that it does so in such a way that this three-year legislation is a one-off phenomenon and that we might subsequently be able to refrain from this kind of intervention in the market.

I want to say thank you for the cooperation we have enjoyed between the political groups and with the Commission and for the work that has led to what I consider to be, in general, sensible legislation.


  Roberts Zīle (UEN). – (LV) First of all I would like to express my gratitude to the Commissioner, the rapporteur and the Council for the compromise reached on this issue, which is of such importance for Europeans. Certainly, from the viewpoint of economic theory, intervention in any segment of the market by setting a retail price ceiling may be considered to be an inappropriate regulation of the economics of the market. Remembering, however, the European Commission’s unsuccessful attempts to influence the roaming market through other methods, this is the legislators’ final instrument and, significantly, it will also be in force for a limited period. In reality, however, this regulation also has a political significance. It shows that Europe’s internal market is really a market on a European scale, and not just the sum of the markets of the individual Member States. The fact that there is an impression that perfect competition holds sway on the local market does not mean that the same holds true at European Union level. Such protection of the Member States’ markets from a truly single European Union internal market persists in a great number of spheres. To mention a few: transport, the provision of services, movement of the labour force, and others. This does not mean that the legislator will always have to carry out administrative measures like these in the European Union to influence the market and even to regulate prices. If, however, it turns out that the retail price ceilings are no longer necessary even before three years are up, this will prove that, at least in the field of mobile communications, we can create a true internal market on the European scale. Thank you.


  Claude Turmes (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, one general problem with the internal market is that the opening up of the market often goes hand in hand with the creation of oligopolies. What we have now done is to fashion a support that will bring a result in the short term, but what is needed at a fundamental level is the improvement of the underlying conditions of competition.

I take it as read that the dominant telephone companies are not going to put a stop to their racket, whose victims will now no longer be the tourist and the perpetually on-the-move businessman, but rather the most vulnerable participants in the market, in many instances young people and children. Take a look at the aggressive advertising of ringtones and the great problems posed by the content available – for violent or pornographic films are available on mobiles – and you will realise that the next thing the Commission has to do, following the consultations that are going on in this area until 7 June, will be to summon up the political courage to bring in pre-emptive legislative measures that will enable us to get a better grip on the problem presented by use of mobile phones by children and young people.


  Vittorio Agnoletto (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, roaming costs are coming down, but Europe is coming to this issue late, and it will continue to be consumers who pay the consequences. For years, the European Commission has taken no measures to protect its citizens and has left the telephone companies to come to agreements between themselves, creating cartels that for consumers translate into throwing money down the drain.

Independent studies, such as that by the Association of European Consumers, have shown that mobile telephone operators bill their customers EUR 3.52 billion too much every year. The actual cost of a minute’s roaming is between 10 and 14 cents, roughly; operators resell it for an average of EUR 1.06, meaning that the gap between prices and costs is over 600%.

Faced with such high margins, we were expecting a more serious proposal with regard to consumers, instead of what has been put before this Chamber: a deduction of 49 cents, which means succumbing to the demands of the Council and telephony operators. Yes, the proposal is necessary, and represents a small step forward, but just lowering prices does not do enough to protect consumers, does not compensate them for the exploitation they have suffered and instead continues to penalise them further.


  Pilar del Castillo Vera (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, I would like to thank the Commissioner for having the courage to tackle a problem that affects the consumers. The Commissioner has demonstrated her enormous concern for consumers and, furthermore, she has immersed herself in a field that is always subject to much criticism; direct intervention in the prices that are set for the market. She has decided to take on that challenge, and we shall see how it works.

Before laying out my position, I would like briefly to thank the rapporteur, who has done an excellent job, and the Council, who, after a relatively short space of time, have very efficiently ensured that this document is ready for voting on in Parliament.

The problem we are facing is essentially as follows: history shows us that intervening in the level of market prices almost always has unwanted consequences and creates other additional problems. Either prices do not fall, or the costs resulting from reductions or from earnings that disappear in that sector are passed on to other sectors in the same field.

For example, there is a degree of concern at the moment: to what extent will there be a transfer of costs to internal national calls? In other words, to what extent will companies raise certain national call costs for the consumer?

I believe, Commissioner, and I put this to the Council as well, that the way this process is monitored is very important, not just with regard to reductions for international calls, but also how the national markets evolve in terms of costs. This will truly provide us with the final dimension and consequences of this Regulation and the decisions that we are taking now.


  Andres Tarand (PSE). – (ET) Today’s regulation is a good example of the positive things the European Union brings its citizens. Reducing mobile telephone bills is a noticeable and positive change. It is odd that the European Union, which began as a common market, should have to fight for seven years for a common market in one sector. What is important, however, is the successful conclusion to which Mr Rübig has guided us.

Although the price level achieved at negotiations held with Member States is not quite what I had hoped for, a compromise is better than a continuation of the status quo. Forty-nine euro cents per outgoing call is six times better than three euros. It is important that the maximum number of consumers be able to benefit from the new prices earlier than, for instance, three months from now, that is to say in September, when the holiday season will already be ending.

Since it is in the interests of mobile phone companies to keep consumers paying the old roaming rates during the entire three-month transition period, we must ensure that the new opportunities created by the regulation rapidly reach consumers of the service. Both we and consumer protection organisations have a great deal of work to do in informing the public.


  Alexander Alvaro (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, meaning well is not the same thing as doing well, or so we say in German, and one very much suspects that this regulation is more the fruit of the desire to have an effect on the masses than an expression of rational policymaking. Yes, of course, roaming charges are excessive, and yes, of course, we can all see that the market has failed to do anything about it, but the only question is as to how I remedy the failure of the market; can it be done by means of machinery to determine and regulate prices, which is what we are creating here, or does it not make much more sense, when we come to future deliberations on the telecommunications package, to make the appropriate adjustments to the directive on market access, so that service providers the length and breadth of Europe are enabled to offer their services in every country, thus generating competition that will bring pressure on prices and push them downwards?

The liberalisation of telecoms markets has worked; the national markets show us as much, and that must also be possible at the European level. After all, if you have a headache, the doctor does not cut your head off; instead, he might give you an aspirin or something of the sort. It is measures such as these that we should consider rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This is a regression to the sort of price-regulating machinery that the EU abandoned all of 20 years ago, and I find it lamentable.


  Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I will echo our Commissioner’s phrase ‘a Europe of results’ to start my speech. I believe we can all, especially our rapporteur, take pride in an example of the EU working. Roaming is clearly best dealt with at EU level, as we have a need to act. There is a clear case of market failure. Our citizens are clearly losing out because of it. We had to do something.

The package before us today is a proportionate response and my group supports it. It will impose transparency, rights to information and a protective tariff which will see reductions of up to 70%, and will protect vast swathes – hundreds of millions – of our citizens. Crucially, it is time-limited to three years to specifically correct the market failure, whereupon we will revisit the subject.

At a time when we hear too much talk of institutional minutiae, I will have no difficulty commending this Europe of results to my constituents in Scotland.


  Ivo Belet (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, Mrs Reding, I should like to extend warm congratulations to Mr Rübig on his perseverance and persistence in this matter.

By this regulation, we have finally proven once again that the European Union is of some value to the people, since just about everyone has one of these gadgets and will therefore be able to benefit from the positive impact of this measure.

I should like to share a very small anecdote with the Commissioner. Over the years, my cleaner has only once talked to me about Europe, and that was about the mobile phone rates, particularly about the excessively high bill she received after she had phoned to Belgium from Spain where she was on holiday.

I think that we have taken the right decision with this resolution, because using your mobile to call abroad in Europe is hardly an option at the moment. It is prohibitively expensive, and that obviously makes it a significant barrier within the internal market. Putting a stop to this will be very much welcomed by businesspeople, tourists, students, and all the rest of us too.

What is also very useful is that the mobile phone users can automatically enjoy the lower rates. This is another victory for the consumer and for Europe. I am persuaded, Commissioner, that the mobile phone operators will be able to recoup much of the lost income, simply because the number of calls will increase considerably.

Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the new mobile phone rates are keen and very close to the rates that this House had proposed. The price of a mobile phone call abroad will drop by an average of 60%, which is massive. The Commission and Parliament have taken a firm stand and ended up siding with the consumer in the face of much pressure and lobbying. When things go well, then I think we should be able to say so.


  Evelyne Gebhardt (PSE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it is quite clear that the consumers who are today’s winners; that is good news for the public, and it is something in which I take great pride, even though we in the Socialist Group in the European Parliament would have liked to see more, but what has been done today is something positive.

In making this law, we have quite deliberately restricted our attention to telephone calls, without enacting anything applicable to SMS, MMS or other means of transmitting data, but we urge the industry to take what we have done as an example. We will look very carefully to see what happens in this area over the next few years. If you in the industry do not take what we have now done by law to heart, we will be obliged to take legislative action in those areas too, and, there too, the Commission will have our wholehearted backing. This is a warning, and I suggest that you should take it to heart. We do not absolutely want to have recourse to the making of laws, but we will if we have to, and the law will be applied with its full rigour.


  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, this is a temporary, albeit necessary, measure. This is not a genuine market economy. The market economy was not functioning, and the telecommunications operators were charging cartel-like prices. There is something clearly missing, however, in this proposal, which has now come in an otherwise acceptable form. It does not apply to text messages or multimedia services. They can still be billed any way the operators like. Hopefully, they will not make up for their loss of profits by raising charges for text messages. It is a waste of time talking about a viable internal market in telecommunications so long as cross-border calls are manifestly over-priced.

This debate on charges is important, but it is still more important to guarantee that all consumers can effortlessly take advantage of reasonable charges: it should not be left to the individual consumer for the law to be fulfilled.


  Herbert Reul (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, my heartfelt thanks go to all those who have worked on this project, the result of which is an improvement on what we had before we started our deliberations.

There is also a certain amount of good news, firstly that the burden is being lifted from the consumers; secondly that the EU has demonstrated its capacity to act; thirdly, that the House has a regulation before it that is time-limited and expires at the end of three years – and I hope it really will do that – and, fourthly, that we are helping to make things more transparent. That is important if there is to be competition, with the consumers being able to decide for themselves which tariff they want or which service provider they are going to opt for.

There is, though, one big problem, and we must not, I think, mince words in addressing it; it is that we are intervening as a political entity and are nevertheless determining prices, and the prices we are fixing are those paid by the end user, yet that is not what politicians are for; price-fixing is not one of our duties. There may be other political and economic systems in which that is an objective, but I do not see it as something that European policy-makers ought to be doing.

It may well be, too, that we are failing to consider the consequences of this sort of intervention in pricing, for it is very likely that someone somewhere is going to have to pay the price for this. If we carry on carping about the way things are and keep on interfering in them, then, far from achieving what we want to achieve, the whole thing will end up turning out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

Arbitrary prices? Are the prices that we are now determining, really the right ones? In essence, they have been arrived at by way of negotiations. Fair-minded people must concede that what you end up with down this road is a result that is to some degree the outcome of chance. The good thing about it is that the Council has ensured that the prices in question are maxima, and that is the right way to go about it. If we are going to resort to price-fixing, then we ought to start by capping them, something that – theoretically at least – leaves the option of regulation open and does not exclude the possibility of a degree of competition setting in below the maximum imposed.

Is this a one-off situation or a precedent? That is the crucial question. My fear is that it was a precedent. One Member has just been brutally frank enough to say that, at last, a taboo has been broken, for we have intervened in the market, and that is precisely what should not happen; that is what I find regrettable, and, indeed, wrong.


  Arlene McCarthy (PSE). – Mr President, as chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection I have got one minute to speak, and if I were speaking here on my mobile phone for one minute, as an ordinary consumer, I would still be paying excessive costs for making the call.

Of course this law will change all of that. Consumers will see the cost of calls halved. They will receive automatic information on the cost of making and receiving calls and they will benefit from an automatic Eurotariff. The IMCO Committee first raised this issue in 2005 when in a hearing we responded to consumer complaints on excessive charging and now in 2007 this Parliament has shown it can deliver for consumers.

So this is good news and we want this to come in as early as possible. We want consumers to continue to benefit from this, even after the three years when the law will lapse, but consumers should be aware that the costs of using their mobile phone for internet access or texting is still excessive. Commissioner, we would ask you to act in this area. The industry itself should move to reduce these prices. We have shown that we will act here on behalf of consumers if they are being ripped off. I hope the industry will take this message seriously.


  Karin Riis-Jørgensen (ALDE). – (DA) Mr President, only nine months after we debated roaming proposals in Parliament for the first time, we now have a result of which we can be very proud. Commissioner Reding, you very much deserve to be congratulated on your splendid work in the fight for cheaper telephone bills. However, we too have done our bit here in Parliament. One winner emerges from this fight, and that is the European consumer. European customers will notice the lower prices by as early as 1 August 2007. It will cost a maximum of DKK 4.50 to call home from abroad. I shall not shed many tears over the losers, namely the European telephone companies. They have bewailed their fate, but the reality is that they have made heaps of money out of consumers. Getting on for 95% of roaming income was clear profit. That is something we have now fortunately put a stop to. It was hard going, however. We were in a lot of disagreement in the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. My fellow Members Mr Coveney of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and Mr Muscat of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament each wanted to go in a different direction, and there was no end of balletic manoeuvring within the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Now, we are all united in this House, however. I should like, therefore, to ask you for a second dance, Mr Muscat. Once again, thank you for your constructive cooperation, and I hope that Mrs Reding will now move on to the area of SMS and text messages in general, as this area is missing from the proposal.


  Marianne Thyssen (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, minister, ladies and gentlemen, if we vote in favour of the package of amendments in relation to the Rübig report on the Roaming Regulation today, we will have every reason to be proud of our role as European legislator. Commissioner Reding’s bold proposal, the work of the various parliamentary committees that paved the way for the Rübig report, as well as the progress that has been made under the German Presidency of the Council, all bear witness to vision and political determination to actually do what we always claim to do, namely to ensure that European decisions benefit the public.

The Roaming Regulation bears witness to vision and moral fibre. Of course, we believe in the working of the market, but where the market fails, we are not afraid to step in. Although price regulation is a far-reaching measure to take, this is temporary and therefore appropriate.

I am also delighted with the speed with which we have been able to work. Laying down an act such as this one within the space of ten months is unprecedented. Moreover, the results are already being felt, even before the act has been published and entered into effect. At this rate, roaming holidaymakers will be able to enjoy the lower rates this coming summer.

Finally, the choices made receive my wholehearted support. The objective to call a halt to excessive consumer prices has been met: the maximum price has dropped some 60% below the average price before the initiative was launched, and this is saying something, and the provisions about more information and transparency are an added bonus. I am looking forward to the reactions from the market which, fortunately, has been left with some freedom and which will be able, and hopefully also be willing, to prove that it works.

I should, on a final note, like to thank all my fellow MEPs for their good cooperation on this matter, not least Mr Coveney, who was the shadow rapporteur in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and who played a key role in achieving this result, but is unfortunately unable to be here today.

I would also congratulate the Commissioner on her proposal, and wish the Council every success. Ladies and gentlemen, I think that the consumer dimension of European policy has earned itself another star today.


  Eluned Morgan (PSE). – Mr President, calling home while on your holidays has been far too expensive for far too long. Many mobile operators have been charging customers extortionate prices and, in Parliament’s view, very unnecessary tariffs. We warned them to put their house in order. We gave them the chance to do the right thing but they persisted and it is for that reason that we have had to introduce legislation that gives protection to anyone who uses a mobile while abroad.

It is not an ideal solution, but it is the only option left to control those who abuse the market. Let this be a lesson to other industries. One of the things we discovered in our discussions with mobile companies was that much roaming traffic is kept in-house as customers are directed on to partner networks. So for many roaming companies, wholesale prices are simply a way of ensuring different parts of the same company benefit. When we understand this, the market price for consumers becomes even more exorbitant. This is a victory for consumers, a victory for the European Parliament and a victory for the European Union.


  Nikolaos Vakalis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I too wish to congratulate both Paul Rübig on the compromise which he has achieved and Commissioner Viviane Reding on her initiative in tabling a regulatory proposal.

I believe that the regulatory intervention was necessary because competition on the roaming market has not been functioning in the European Union for many years, with the result that charges remain high at both wholesale and at retail level.

Despite any weaknesses in the initial proposal which I pointed out from the beginning, I consider that the compromise text we are voting on today covers many of the system’s operating weaknesses. I remember that our main concern was to reconcile consumers’ needs and the competitiveness of the European mobile telephone industry and we have ultimately reconciled them wisely.

To be specific, I am particularly satisfied with the proposed charges at both wholesale and retail level, which are very close to those which I proposed in my amendments. Mainly, however, I am satisfied that the ‘opt out’ rationale prevailed. With the ultimate formula of this rationale, I believe that all categories of consumers are protected, including those who wish to opt out of euro-billing and to maintain their contract with their company as it stands, and those with little or no information, who must benefit from the new reduced prices.

Finally, the regulation we are voting on today guarantees transparency of prices for European consumers who, unfortunately, pay high prices for a great many goods and services, which is unwarranted on a single, liberalised and competitive European market.


  Katerina Batzeli (PSE).(EL) Mr President, I too should like to thank the Commissioner for her effective proposal on roaming, a proposal which received a political message from the European Parliament many years ago.

We know that what was sought from the outset was to safeguard maximum charges, so that mobile telephone providers would be forced to set transparent and properly calculated charges. I consider that our job is not yet done, either by the Commission or by the European Parliament. If and when the situation on the roaming market is reviewed, once today’s regulation has been applied, more corrections will need to be made to data services and messaging.

In addition, it should be emphasised that serious work needs to be done by the regulatory authorities, which will need to address compliance with today’s agreement.

In a period of widespread scepticism about the immediacy and importance of action by the European Union in citizens’ daily lives, today’s initiative is an opportunity for the institutions to demonstrate that the European Union is intervening to resolve their problems and complete the internal market.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) I would like to express my gratitude to the rapporteur, Mr Rübig, and also to Mrs Niebler and the other rapporteurs, namely Messrs Muscat, Coveney, Mauro and Matsis, as well as to the Council, as represented by our colleague, Mr Joachim Wuermeling, for their work in drafting this difficult report. At the same time I would like to thank the Commissioner, Mrs Reding, for working closely with the European Parliament and drafting this regulation, together with her team, in such a careful way, and on the basis of detailed analysis.

European consumers, especially tourists, students or business people, have often been unpleasantly surprised by the bills presented by their mobile phone operators when returning from trips abroad. Following constructive discussions in the European Parliament, we managed to set price caps so that on the one hand, the roaming costs incurred by customers will be considerably reduced and, on the other hand, there will be enough room for mobile operators to compete on price.

I am happy with the compromise, which will have major implications for the ordinary European consumer. The consumer will have three months to decide whether he or she wants to switch from the present tariff to a 'Eurotariff', or would rather stick to the current tariff model. I am pleased that the European Parliament has managed to ensure that those who have a better contract will not automatically come under the consumer protection tariff, but will have the option of retaining their existing contracts.

The final draft has also taken on board the idea that regulation should remain in force for only three years. I am convinced that a genuinely competitive roaming telephony market will emerge and there will be no need for further regulation in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, Europe needs to see concrete results, and the adoption of this European legislation in record time is a great achievement, and one that will bring benefit to the people of Europe. It provides clear evidence that where Europe is genuinely committed to implementing a meaningful and concrete project, it can quickly reach agreement.


  Béatrice Patrie (PSE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, before long, 37 million tourists and 110 million Europeans who travel with their jobs are going to see their telephone bills slashed by around 70%.

The text that we are due to adopt is going to put an end to the veritable racket of which European consumers have fallen foul for years. Unfortunately, we are not sure whether the prices secured at the end of what was a real hard bargaining debate will fully reflect the true costs. As we have no reliable data on the volumes and associated revenues, we still have difficulty in gaining an idea of the balance required between the margins needed in order to keep European mobile telephone companies competitive and fair prices for consumers. This regulation – especially in relation to retail prices – is an advance, but one that still needs to be improved. We now need to define the prices for sending SMS data and e-mails.

Finally, we must deplore the fact that millions of Europeans who will be travelling until the end of August will still be unable to benefit from the new tariffs. The operators have therefore gained a season!


  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, I believe that we can only welcome today the reduction in international roaming charges.

However, we should avoid taking shortcuts and, for goodness’ sake, let us not systematically and futilely pit manufacturers against consumers, because the blind pursuit of continually reduced ceiling prices does not just have advantages, far from it. Indeed, with overly low roaming tariffs, operators may try to make up for the reduction in their revenue by reducing their investments, thereby penalising consumers as a whole. The risk run is therefore that of seeing a marked increase in national call tariffs.

The ceilings proposed in the compromise – 49 cents per minute for calls made from abroad and 24 cents per minute for calls received – are particularly interesting, all the more so since a demand can be made to reduce them in the three years following the entry into force of the regulation, something about which we can be pleased.

This sensible option will make it possible to seek a reduction in prices in the longer term. We will therefore have a competitive market with the widest possible variety of tariffs, enabling consumers to make an informed choice.

Under the terms of the compromise, consumers will also have a three-month period after the entry into force of the regulation in which to decide whether or not to take advantage of the Eurotariff. If they do not indicate a preference, they will be automatically allocated the best tariff for them. Users therefore have the option not to be allocated the Eurotariff if they already benefited from favourable conditions offered by their operator, and that is a very good thing. This pragmatic solution will enable the millions of consumers who benefit from lower international roaming tariffs not to have the Eurotariff automatically allocated to them.

I therefore hope that this new regulation, which is temporary insofar as it is due to expire three years after it has entered into force, will make it possible for the mobile telephone market to be regulated, while of course respecting consumers, by promoting their interests and by protecting them better, but without for all that hindering competition and innovation in the sector.


  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – Deşi Comisia pentru industrie, cercetare şi energie a aprobat iniţial un plafon tarifar mai scăzut pentru apelurile de roaming, soluţia agreată, care prevede reducerea în trei ani a tarifelor pentru apelurile efectuate de la 49 de euro cenţi la 43 şi pentru apelurile primite de la 24 de euro cenţi la 19, va reduce cu peste 60% facturile celor aproape 150 de milioane de utilizatori de roaming şi reprezintă un progres important. Reducerea tarifelor pentru roaming va determina şi creşterea gradului de utilizare serviciilor, mai ales în rândul celor 63% dintre europeni care, din cauza preţului excesiv, îşi limitau telefoanele când călătoreau în străinătate. Pentru aceasta, însă, în special în primele luni de aplicare a regulamentului, va fi esenţială informarea utilizatorilor. Solicităm Comisiei Europene ca, împreună cu autorităţile naţionale de reglementare, să informeze utilizatorii şi, mai ales, să supravegheze piaţa, astfel încât prevederile noului regulament să fie respectate iar cetăţenii europeni să se bucure de noile tarife, indiferent dacă sunt turişti sau oameni de afaceri. Felicit raportorii şi mai ales pe doamna Comisar pentru elaborarea acestui regulament.


  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to congratulate Commissioner Reding and the rapporteur Mr Rübig, and to thank the Council for its favourable attitude to the proposal to reduce roaming charges

What we are witnessing is something unusual. For the first time we are introducing a regulation that will encourage competition, promote the free market and help to implement the Lisbon Strategy in the European Union on such a scale. Small and medium-sized enterprises, students, tourists and millions of Europeans working abroad will all benefit from it. I have to also point out that this regulation will help not just consumers, but also the market.

In the course of the debates we have heard the arguments against regulation along the lines that a free market does not need regulation. This is indeed the case, but there is one exception, and that is when competition and consumers need to be protected against monopolies. This is a case in point. The European Commission has behaved in the way that all consumer and competition protection bodies would act in any European country.

The important thing now is to see how this regulation works. I hope it will not be a one-off, but a precedent, and that we will be able to regulate many other matters to the benefit of the market, competition and consumers in a similar way.

We now face the creation of an energy market, which is a huge challenge. We will have to deal with some national giants, of which we may be proud, but need to be worked into the market.

In the first round, when we initially relied on national governments to take decisions, the Lisbon Strategy failed. Things turned out better when the European Commission took the matter into its hands. The results are there for all to see, and for this I congratulate the Commissioner and Mr Barroso.


  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, I should first of all like to thank our negotiation team, with all of whom we have reached a balanced outcome.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is unusual for us to intervene in market pricing, but unfortunately, it was something that had to be done. There was far too much ambiguity surrounding the use of mobile phones abroad by holidaymakers. Excessive call charges and high costs for receiving calls made for unpleasant surprises when bills landed on the doormat a month later.

We have now prescribed maximum prices, albeit still, if you ask me, somewhat high ones, and – something that is even more important – we have demanded more transparency from the telephone providers. If people make phone calls abroad, the precise cost must be clear to them. If prices are transparent, competition will be normalised, and maximum prices will become redundant. All things being equal, telephone companies will soon offer rates that are below the maximum.

There is still disappointment about the commencement date, and the telephone companies would do well to themselves take the initiative in offering favourable rates even before 1 July, when the schools break up for the summer. The holidaymaker has been a milch cow for too long.


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, the seven-year struggle between Parliament and the European telecoms operators is drawing to a close. As MEPs we were no longer able to stand by as prices rose to five times the level of costs, thus restricting communications in the internal market. We were no longer able to sit back and watch the huge discrepancies between northern and southern Europe in terms of the cost of international calls, and merely to criticise the lack of transparency. The operators proved unable to demonstrate their steep costs to us and the national regulators confirmed that they do not have any influence when it comes to cross-border calls.

We must therefore today take action at a Union level. When the market fails, regulation is the necessary response. The regulation is limited to a three year period, by which time the market will have moved on. The tariff of EUR 49.24 is equal to the average price charged by the three biggest operators, and we are giving the people the opportunity to choose other deals which may be on the market. We are also giving the public the right freely to move from one operator to another and back again. The most important thing is, of course, the obligation to provide consumers with information on prices in good time. Just yesterday, operators began distributing their leaflets and finally publicising their prices. Opponents of the regulation argue that there is no reason to interfere in the market because there are already packages to be found with lower roaming prices. I feel, however, that these offers appeared only when the Commission publicised the regulation; in other words, things started moving only under the threat of regulation and certainly not as a result of market mechanisms.

One might ask whether there was a need for a regulation on the retail price of voice services. I think there was, because the consumer is guided by the final price and it is the consumer’s choice alone that influences the market. We will keep an eye on how matters progress on data services not covered by the regulation. I should like to call on the socialists not to block the adoption of this Council regulation, as this will mean that it can be in force by the summer. I hope that the liberal minister for foreign affairs stands her ground in the face of pressure from the lobbyists. On behalf of the Czech people, I should like to thank the negotiating team, Mr Rübig, Mrs Niebler and others from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, and the Commission for the job they have successfully completed in the interests of the people of the EU.


  Dariusz Rosati (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the regulation to control roaming charges in the European Union is an important step towards eliminating monopolistic practices and making it easier for European citizens to benefit from mobile telephony.

The compromise achieved will make it possible to reduce roaming charges by more than two-thirds over three years. Unfortunately we have not managed to gain support for further reductions in roaming charges. SMS and MMS roaming has not been reduced. Nevertheless, the agreement achieved is a huge success for the Commission and Parliament.

I would like to thank the Commissioner and our rapporteur for their work.

The universal availability of cheap mobile phone services is above all good news for citizens travelling around Europe. But it is also good news for the governments of the Member States, as numerous studies have shown that widespread mobile telephony increases productivity, encourages economic growth and improves quality of life. It is decisions such as these that make us look good in the eyes of our citizens.

I wish this House more such decisions in the future.


  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE).(NL) Mr President, having just given my approval, I hope you will allow me to make four comments.

Firstly, this regulation will make companies and members of the public better off to the tune of between four and five billion, while the competition remains intact.

Secondly, small operators, such as KPN in the Netherlands, will not be elbowed out of the market, because purchase pricing is also to be properly regulated.

Thirdly, for the border regions, this is a good result to say the very least, for, at the moment, people are being taken off a network in an instant, which makes for wild west situations there. From now on, a report is to be submitted to the Commission each year on the situation in a given country. This is an undesirable situation, but one that is capable of being resolved, and, in order that it may be, Parliament will keep a close eye on things.

Finally, we often talk about better legislation in this House. Well, this is a prime example of it, in that the regulation ceases to exist the minute the social partners, the operators face up to their responsibility.

In this way, a sound balance is struck between recognisable Parliament policy and people’s own responsibility. All credit, then, to Commissioner Reding and to the rapporteur, Mr Rübig, for a visible policy that produces real results.


  Mia De Vits (PSE).(NL) Mr President, I too should like to single out two vital points in this issue: excessive charges and lack of transparency. As I see it, the agreement is sound and balanced, and whilst it may not be the result we had hoped for, it represents a major step forward.

I do regret, though, that my amendment in favour of even more transparency, having been accepted by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, was rejected in the trilogue. It provided, Commissioner, for a rate simulator to be worked out by the government which would enable the consumers to compare rates of different operators, for these, at the moment, are very complex and leave the consumer in much uncertainty. It could have represented a second star in consumer protection.

Anyway, the agreement that has now been reached receives my backing. I hope that in future, the rates will actually drop even more, due to competition among the operators, and I think that we have proven that, as far as this is concerned, we in this House can make a difference for the man in the street.


  Werner Langen (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, as Mrs Roithová said, a seven-year war is drawing to its close, and of those seven years, the Commission spent five hacking around in the bushes, while we, in this House, demanded that something at length be done. I am thoroughly grateful to the Council for having drawn the bureaucratic teeth of the Commission’s draft, for across-the-board regulation – 130% of wholesale rates – would have involved an immense amount of bureaucracy and would have been incompatible with the objective of better regulation.

We all agree on the objectives, although I have to admit that there are those in this House who are trying to control the prices charged to end-users, and I am thankful that the Europe tariff is high enough to permit competition to develop below it. I am pretty sure that, because this regulation is limited to three years, this competition will kick in relatively quickly, and that we will see the roaming rates remaining below this upper limit, since we will at the same time have achieved the objective of creating greater transparency and empowering consumers. I am convinced that it cannot be our function to fix the prices charged to end-users, and we just managed to strike out that sort of outright fixing of end prices.

Years ago – as Mr Goebbels, who was there, will recall – we opted for another approach when it came to cross-border payments, which we regulated in such a way that prices were fixed within the internal market. Insisting on the same prices for transfers within a Member State and across borders makes perfect sense in regulatory terms, but what we are doing here threatens to transgress the bounds of that which is tolerable. I will nevertheless be voting in favour and would like to express my thanks to the House’s negotiators, to the committee chairmen, to the Council, and, finally, to the Commission for being prepared, once the negotiations were over, to agree to this compromise after all.


  Edit Herczog (PSE). – (HU) Jacques Delors said at one time that it is difficult to love the internal market. Now it has been demonstrated by the Commissioner, by the rapporteur Mr Rübig and by Parliament that it is nevertheless possible. The EU means not only the elimination of custom duties but also the free movement of goods in the internal market. Today’s legislation signifies the strengthening of the European idea.

According to preliminary calculations, roaming charges will keep approximately 800 million forints in customers’ pockets. I am convinced that a wider use of telephone services will successfully counterbalance this loss of revenue and no employee will be put at a disadvantage.

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur and the Commissioner for taking into consideration the case of the blind and partially-sighted, for whom information about rates will be provided by voice rather than SMS. I wish all Europeans happy roaming and happy summer holidays! Let us all enjoy today’s success.


  President. I would like to take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to my former colleague, Mr Wuermeling, and to give him the floor, as representative for the Council in his ministerial capacity.


  Joachim Wuermeling, President-in-Office of the Council. – (DE) Mr President, honourable Members – who have given me such a warm welcome – I know from past experience that your House keeps to a strict timetable, but I would nevertheless like to say something about one or two of the points that have featured in today’s debate, and I wish to do so not least as an indication of the culture of dialogue that the German Presidency wishes to encourage.

Although many Members of your House – Mr Alvaro, Mr Reul, and Mr Farage, among others – have taken a critical view of the intervention in the market, I should like to remind you that we are all agreed on the market’s need for rules, and for competition to be fair, which it simply was not in the realm of roaming charges, since consumers had no choice between the various services on offer. That was why competition was not fair; that was why it was necessary to do something about it. The single market gains credibility in the eyes of the public only if the European Union ensures that they are not put at a disadvantage within it.

Some people have been given the impression that those who are in favour of low maximum prices are the ones on the side of the consumer, while those who favour higher maximum prices are fighting the companies’ corner. In the Council, too, there were many who spoke in favour of putting the prices a bit higher, but things are not as simple as all that, for it is of course dynamic and tough competition that does most to benefit consumers.

I would like to remind you all that it is that sort of competition on which the success of the single market and of all forms of liberalisation is founded. It is crucial that a diversity of tariffs remain in place, and that there should be innovations in the field of roaming as much as elsewhere, and this is something to which many Member States, in the Council of Ministers, attached great importance. Setting roaming charges in stone would benefit nobody, for then there would be no scope for flat rate, for hourly contract or for bonus schemes, and what we want instead is to maintain the possibility of the consumer, and also industry, being able to determine the services on offer, with consumers continuing to have a free choice, and that is what this compromise achieves.

A great deal has been said from various quarters about the point at which the regulation is to enter into force, and I can assure you that the German Presidency has the greatest possible interest in getting this to happen as soon as possible, but the simple fact of the matter is that a number of formal steps have to be completed between today’s vote and the publication in the Official Journal; first of all, your resolution must be communicated to the Council, which must then come to a policy agreement on it – this will happen on 7 June – and then the versions of it in various languages must be produced – which will happen in the second week of June – then, in the third week of that month, the lawyer-linguists in all the institutions must read through it again, after which COREPER and the Council must formally adopt it, so that a great deal of effort will be required to get it published on 29 June.

I can assure you, though, that this dossier is being given priority in all the bodies required to deal with it; all deadlines are being cut, practically all meetings are being dispensed with, and much is being done through written processes; the fact that only in this timeframe can a correct procedure be ensured is something that should be borne in mind by all those who want to obviate legal risks in the publication of this regulation.

I think I can say, without having checked all the details, that, by the speed with which this directive has been adopted, we have broken a European record, and, since I have never in my life heard of a European champion who was angry at having run two-tenths of a second too slow, then neither should we be. Instead, let us rejoice in our shared success.




  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. Madam President, this is a good day for Parliament, with a good consensus to get rid of market failure and to guarantee consumer protection. Permit me to respond briefly to the questions that have been raised.

The first thing is that we are not fixing prices; we are setting ceilings under which competition will have ample room to offer attractive price packages. I would also underline that the consensus reached today is very close to the Commission’s original proposal but with the flexibility, which the Commission welcomes, for customers to choose other packages when they wish.

There has been some criticism of the regulation of prices at retail level. It is true that this is a very exceptional circumstance, which has to be taken into consideration when there is a market failure. Here we have a market failure at European level. We very often have market failure at national level, and then the national regulators regulate retail prices. So what we are doing at European level is also done regularly at national level.

There was a question as to why the Commission is doing nothing against cartels. The Commission is acting; my colleague Mrs Kroes has investigated them under competition rules. In the case of roaming, it is much more efficient to work with ex ante regulation, and that this is effective has been shown by the fact that it has been possible to come up with a piece of legislation after just 10 months of work.

Many colleagues also raised the question of regulating roaming data communications. I can assure Parliament that during the next 18 months the national regulators will monitor the price of data communications and they will report to the Commission. I hope that today will be a wake-up call for operators also in terms of data roaming, and I hope that they will bring down those prices so that we will not have to intervene on that issue.

(DE) Madam President, I will say just a few words in German. I am delighted that Mr Langen has abandoned his resistance and at last agreed to a compromise, something that he found difficult but has nevertheless – I think – managed to accomplish.

To my friend Mr Wuermeling I would like to say that I really do ask the Council to get its skates on and get the regulation published in the Official Journal as soon possible – by which I do not mean only at the end of June, but a good deal earlier.

(FR) Ladies and gentlemen, this is a great day for Parliament, for a Parliament that is united in defending Europeans beyond the usual political divisions. It is an excellent thing and, as a former MEP, I am pleased to see it.

It is also a great day for the European institutions, which are demonstrating their ability to act in the common interest, quickly, effectively and as one. It is a great day for Europeans, who are seeing the Europe of the people and the Europe of practical projects in operation. Finally, it is of course a great day for consumers, whether they be tourists or business travellers: they have seen their European institutions right the failure of the roaming market with capped Eurotariffs and price transparency. They will be able to see the effect of this action because their telephone bills are going to decrease greatly. With today’s decision, one of the last barriers of Europe has come down, that of overbilling, which penalises those citizens who exercise their right to free movement.

Allow me to conclude with an appeal to telephone operators: I should like to ask them not to wait any longer and to enter into a genuine competition to offer the best roaming tariff to their consumers, a tariff below the ceilings on which Parliament is going to decide today.



  Robert Goebbels (PSE).(DE) Madam President, perhaps I might be permitted to say something brief to the Council; while I would like to thank the German Presidency of the Council in advance for making every effort to get this regulation into the Official Journal as soon as possible, I have to tell Mr Wuermeling that he will probably not break the European record, which is held by the agriculture ministers who have, on several occasions, managed to get a European regulation into the Official Journal within the space of a week.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 12 noon.

Written statements (Rule 142)


  Alessandro Battilocchio (NI), in writing. (IT) I am pleased to see that in the case of the report on roaming the vast majority of Members of this Chamber have placed themselves in the position of citizens and consumers rather than, as has happened on many other occasions, advocates of the interests of one or another industrial sector. This Parliament has in fact united to demand, in addition to the reduced tariff system and transparency, that the regulation be applied from the beginning of the summer, so that users may benefit from it during the holiday period. I would like to thank Commissioner Reding, who has been strongly in favour of this regulation, for her efforts, and the rapporteurs who succeeded in obtaining better tariffs than those proposed by the Council. What we need now is one last effort: by the Council to rapidly adopt the document and to show that the EU is with its citizens, and by all the institutions to ensure the greatest possible transparency and provision of information, so that all citizens are aware of their rights and may benefit as much as possible from this success. We have shown that with the right will and cooperation it is possible to confront even the large economic monopolies, to everyone’s benefit. My hope is that, after this, other battles may be similarly successful.


  András Gyürk (PPE-DE) , in writing.(HU) The motive for the present regulation of roaming charges is the fact that roaming rates have turned out to be unreasonably high in spite of the growing competition and the liberalisation of markets in recent years. Intervention was necessary because the market did not live up to expectations, and distortions showed up in its operation.

That is precisely why I consider it necessary to draw attention to a point in the regulation that aims to prevent similar potential distortions occurring in the data communications market. For in this point the regulation provides that the European Commission shall monitor and evaluate the market not only for voice communication but also for data communication (SMS, MMS, Internet), and if necessary, extend the regulation to that field as well.

The international market for data transmission plays an increasingly important role due to fast-paced technological advances. Internet-based voice transmission (VoIP) is revolutionising telephony, opening the door to cheaper calls. The spread of 3G networks and of other related technologies has a significant impact on the market for mobile services.

Closer attention to market processes is therefore justified in the interest of consumers and competition, with the prospect of proportionate intervention if they are not working satisfactorily. Indeed, a situation where citizens and businesses pay fees over and above those justified for recouping necessary technical outlays has a very negative impact on competitiveness and on the efficient operation of the internal market.


  Gábor Harangozó (PSE), in writing. – The debate on regulating the roaming on public networks activity in Europe is to be seen in the broad context of a lack of knowledge and precise data on the volumes and revenues at stake. Clear assessment and monitoring of the situation are therefore required if we want to successfully achieve a balanced regulation of roaming activity, a balanced approach that would take into account the interests of both the consumers and the telecommunication industry.

Despite the obvious lack of transparency in this area of the market, it is clear that competition distortion and excessive prices have been hampering the development of a healthy and competitive internal market in this sector. We therefore strongly support the main aspects of the Commission proposal and the improvements proposed in Mr Rübig’s report. We cannot allow European citizens to continue paying unjustifiably high prices. We therefore have the responsibility to ensure the development of a fair, dynamic and globally competitive internal market in the roaming sector by providing accurate information to the consumer allowing them to make real choices when comparing operators. Besides better consumer information and closer monitoring of the sector, we have to ensure a substantial reduction in roaming prices.


  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE), în scris. – Regulamentul european privind tarifele de roaming este unul oportun pentru cetăţenii români pe care-i reprezint în acest for.

Motivul principal este cel al corectării unui nivel nejustificat al preţurilor. Conform statisticii Comisiei Europene, preţurile la telefonia mobilă din România pentru o convorbire medie de 4 minute pe teritoriul Uniunii Europene variază între 3,12 euro şi 9,52 euro.

Pe de altă parte, piaţa românească este una matură, înregistrând una dintre cele mai ridicate rate de creştere din ultimii ani. Sectorul comunicaţiilor a contribuit cu un procent de 9% din PIB încă din 2005. Doi dintre cei mai mari operatori din lume au intrat pe piaţa românească de ani buni, ceea ce arată stabilitatea şi maturitatea pieţei. De aceea ne bucurăm că demersurile de excludere a României şi Bulgariei de la aplicarea acestei reglementări au fost respinse prin votul dumneavoastră din comisii. Nu putem pe de o parte să deschidem pieţele, iar pe de alta să limităm accesul consumatorilor români la piaţa comună.

Uniunea Europeană confirmă încrederea românilor. În primul an de la aderare, aceştia sunt în poziţia de a beneficia de un avantaj concret al apartenenţei la Uniune. Libertatea de circulaţie am câştigat-o cu greu, libertatea de a comunica fără bariere suplimentare trebuie să fie şi ea asigurată.


  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FI) One of the crucial questions in EU legislative work should be what things in general need to be regulated and what method of regulation best promotes the objective set. On the one hand we have to address the flaws in the system and ensure that regulation is detailed enough to achieve the objective. On the other hand, regulation has to be sufficiently flexible for it to encourage competition and innovation and not paralyse development with quibbling details.

The compromise achieved on the proposal for a regulation to lower roaming charges is, I think, an excellent piece of EU legislation.

First of all it corrects a flaw. Telecommunications operators have kept charges for phone calls overseas unreasonably high for years, and they have not engaged in healthy competition in their pricing policies. Despite prompting by the Commission, charges have barely fallen. As in this case the market was unable to correct its own errors, it had to be done by means of EU legislation.

This is a concrete example of a benefit which the EU has produced for consumers, which should be remembered when next time people feel like raging about the EU. We have to interfere if the market is not working and operators are overcharging, using means which directly and substantially reduce people’s mobile phone bills when abroad.

Secondly, the regulation specifically points the market in a healthier direction: it will not stifle it, but encourage competition in the future. Price caps for phone calls in the regulation have not been brought down so low that there is no room for competition beneath them. Low price caps will also boost competition in other areas of the business. The regulation, furthermore, will have a far-reaching impact: if charges are guided downwards it would be silly to raise them again once the regulation has expired.

With capped prices operators will nevertheless be left with a profit margin, enabling product development and innovation to continue.

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