Photo of Edward Vaizey

Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative)

The Telecommunications Council will take place in Brussels on 20 December 2012. The Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Shan Morgan, will represent the UK at this Council.

The first item is a progress report from the presidency, followed by an orientation debate (an exchange of views steered by the questions from the presidency) on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (EMI0977/12). The first question asks what areas from this proposal should member states focus on to ensure the progress of this complex piece of legislation. Here, the UK will say that in order to make progress on this proposal, the focus must be on: agreeing the specific details, including technical standards about how this regulation will work in practice; actively consulting and involving service providers and end-users, including business users; and in this process ensuring that this proposal builds on what has already been developed across member states in respect of standards and systems.

The second question asks whether we would agree that setting harmonised minimum security levels for e-identification ensures adequate security for cross-border transactions across Europe. Here, we will say that we must ensure that what is finally agreed is based on a risk-assessment of the appropriate levels of security required.

The Council will then receive progress reports from the presidency on proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/98/EC on the reuse of public sector information (PSI) and proposal for a directive on guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks (EM 16006/11). We will not intervene on either of these items.

The Council will then undertake a full “tour de table” debate guided by two questions from the presidency on the priorities going forward for the digital agenda for Europe (DAE-EM9981/10). This item will also include presentations on the mid-term review of the DAE (with a communication due to be published on 19 December) and the Commission’s annual growth survey 2013.

In the debate, the first question asks for an assessment of progress made on the priorities emanating from the DAE. The UK will say that there appears to be good progress by many member states on meeting the DAE broadband targets. The UK is supportive of these targets and we are aiming to increase both the level of penetration and the availability of higher broadband speeds through a combination of measures. The aim of these is to remove barriers to investment in infrastructure deployment by private companies and develop targeted financial support in those areas of the country—particularly rural areas—where the unaided market will not provide a service. Greater EU broadband coverage will also increase the potential client base for EU businesses in the digital single market. However, there appears to be less progress made in respect of information and communications technology (ICT) services. To improve the chances of success, member states should consider the opportunities that cross-border services offer to EU businesses and citizens. The Commission should also consider intensifying its efforts in working more closely together across directorate-generals.

The second question asks member states to highlight areas where they see the need for more intensive efforts to address perceived challenges. Here the UK will say that the priority for the EU’s ICT agenda should be the establishment of a single market for the digital economy and actions to boost cross-border e-commerce. To achieve this aim, the top three priorities should be: modernising the EU intellectual property framework; securing a balanced legal framework for data protection; and improving infrastructure and encouraging broadband roll out.

Any Other Business (AOB)

There are only three items under AOB. We do not currently foresee the need to intervene on any of these items. The first is a progress report from the presidency on proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA-EM 14358/10).

The second item is a presentation by the Commission on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites, which was published on 4 December 2012.

Finally, the Irish delegation will inform the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming presidency.

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