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Telecoms Package: preparation for a third reading

updated: Sept 21st.The list of MEPs that will be part of the EP delegation conciliation committee is now official.
updated: Sept 17th.European directives of the "Telecoms Package" are advancing through the codecision process of the EU. As soon as the Council of the EU formally rejects any amendment voted by the European Parliament in second reading1, the Telecoms Package will enter the conciliation procedure. In this closed negotiation (between 27 representatives of the Council of the EU and 27 representatives of the European Parliament), the fate of an open, free and neutral Internet in the EU will be decided. Here is a quick guide to understanding this procedure, and participating now to urge open-minded and progressive MEPs to take part in the conciliation committee (There are only a few days left as the decision are already taking place.).

The Conciliation procedure

co-decision: you are here.

The inner working of the conciliation phase is described in the following document. It is accessible and worth reading:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/code/information/guide_en.pdf

In short:

  • It is comprised of 27 members of the European Parliament reflecting the balance of political groups (11 EPP, 7 S&D (new name of PSE), 3 ALDE, 2 Greens, 1 GUE/NGL, 2 ECR (new name of UEN), 1 EFD ) + 27 representatives of the Member States for the Council of the European Union (the CoRePer, i.e. Council of Permanent Representatives, of each member states, unelected diplomats)
  • 3 vice-presidents of the European Parliament, most probably Alejo Vidal Quadras, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou and Giovanni Pittella (who will co-chair the committee along with concerned minister, Åsa Torstensson, representative of the Swedish Presidency) + rapporteurs + chairs of the committees (ITRE+IMCO) are part of the Parliament delegation (counted off their political group ratios)
  • In a maximum delay of 6 weeks (8 if extension is agreed) after the formal rejection by the Council of the 2nd reading amendments of the EP 2, the Conciliation Committee is appointed. According to recent information, its composition will be closed on Friday Sept. 18th, and the conciliation committee will be be appointed as early as the first days of October.
  • the CODE (Codecision European civil servants) secretariat + secretariats of the responsible committees (ITRE and IMCO) play an important role in facilitating the debates. EP deliberations are open to the staff of the Parliament.
  • Between all the meetings of the Conciliation Committee, trialogues take place (rapporteurs for the EP + Commission + Council in small formations)
  • They work on a 4-column document that goes back and forth between the EP and the Council : 1st Column is 1st reading by the Council / 2nd column is 2nd reading by the EP / 3rd is Council's reaction / 4th is EP's position.
  • The Conciliation Committee has 6 weeks (8 if extension is agreed) to reach an agreement on the final text. If an agreement isn't reached in that period, the whole package of 5 directives will be considered as rejected. If an agreement is reached, the outcome of the conciliation is sent to Council and Parliament for a third reading. If Council or Parliament reject this outcome, the proposal is withdrawn; otherwise it enters into force as the new "Telecoms Package" directives.

On the scope of the conciliation

  • The Conciliation Committee agrees on what parts of the directives will be negotiated. It can range from only the "amendment 138"3 (amendement protecting citizens fundamental rights and freedoms which in second reading was the only point of disagreement between the Parliament and the Council) to the whole package. The scope of the negotiation is indeed crucial for the future of the final agreed text, and its impact on the future of the internet and citizen's fundamental rights.
  • Rapporteur Catherine Trautmann said in an ITRE meeting on September 2nd that only amendment 138 would be negotiated. According to her, anti-Net Neutrality provisions should not be rediscussed. The Swedish minister for Information and Communication Technologies, Åsa Torstensson (who will represent the presidency of the EU within the Council) made a similar statement in an interview published by the Swedish newspaper DN.
  • It is crucial that negotiations include the harmful anti-Net Neutrality dispositions4 voted in second reading in order to remove them from the Telecoms Package.

What to do now ?

EU citizens must participate and bring transparency into this opaque process. Fundamental rights and freedoms should not be sacrificed for the sake of private interests, or for the expediency of the EU legislative process. It is very important to:

  • Continue to raise awareness on topics of network neutrality and users fundamental rights and freedoms in various member states. Blogging, tweeting, and contacting journalists to talk about it, linking these issues to various national current events.
  • Call the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who were supportive of citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms in the past5 and ask them to do all they can to participate in the conciliation committee. Advise them of the crucial nature of these issues and that articles 20 and 21 of the Universal Service directive (as well as other items in the package) allow extremely dangerous discriminating practices.
  • In some Member States, national parliament can vote a mandate for the country's representative in the Council of EU, thus democratically deciding what the country's position will be6. Citizens of such Member States shall get ready to infom their national parliaments about these issues.

This battle is extremely important for the future of our networked societies. We must make sure that Europe guarantees an open, free and neutral Internet. Everyone who cares about the Internet can and should participate! <3

  • 1. This formal rejection of the European Parliament's 2nd reading amendments by the Council triggers the countdown to the conciliation phase. In practice, negotiations could start as soon as the composition of the conciliation committee is known.
  • 2. formal rejection which has not occurred yet, might only occur after vice-presidents and a selection for MEPs are already being chosen
  • 3. "Applying the principle that no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, notably in accordance with Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on freedom of expression and information, save when public security is threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent."
  • 4. See specially articles 20, 21 and 22 and the associated recitals.
  • 5. For views sorted by Member State, just change the two-letter country code at the end of http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/MEPs_score_SE
  • 6. If you live in such a Member State, feel free to contact us : contact [at] laquadrature . net