Select Committee on European Scrutiny Eighteenth Report




COM(01) 742

(a) Commission Report on the implementation of Decision 1336/97/EC on a series of guidelines for trans­European telecommunications networks.

(b) Draft Decision revising Annex I to Decision No. 1336/97/EC on a series of guidelines for trans­European telecommunications networks.

Legal base:(a) — ; (b) Article 156 EC; qualified majority voting
Document originated:10 December 2001
Forwarded to the Council:11 December 2001
Deposited in Parliament:16 January 2002
Department:Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration:EM of 22 January 2002
Previous Committee Report:None
To be discussed in Council:Transport and Telecommunications Council 25-26 March
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  8.1  To "derive full benefit from the setting up of an area without internal frontiers", the Treaty establishing the European Community calls for the development of trans-European networks in three areas: energy, transport, and telecommunications infrastructures [50].

  8.2  Unlike the other two areas, TEN­Telecom has moved away from supporting the development of infrastructures. It is hoped that, by supporting services of public interest that are not competing with commercial services, the programme will encourage the development of telecommunications infrastructures. Any direct financial support for these has come from Structural Funds in qualifying regions and the European Investment Bank.

  8.3  Instead, commensurate with its funds, TEN-Telecom supports the technical and commercial feasibility of applications and services that use communications networks, their validation and deployment. They must be innovative, trans-European, and based on proven technology. The programme provides support for a pre-deployment phase during which business plans and market validation studies are drawn up, and for deployment, when it contributes to the initial investment required to make an application or service operational.

The Commission report

  8.4  Under the Decision establishing a series of guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks [51], the Commission is required to submit a report every three years on the implementation of the Decision. At the same time, the Commission is required to make appropriate proposals for the revision of the Guidelines, based on technological developments and on experience in operating the programme.

  8.5  Projects are selected on a competitive basis, in response to calls for proposals in specified areas. An overview is given in the report of the calls issued from 1998-2000, divided between services and applications. The services include generic information services, services for industry and commerce, new access methods, mobility and convergence. The applications include:

  • education and training;
  • access to Europe's cultural heritage;
  • applications and services for SMEs;
  • transport and mobility;
  • environment and emergency management;
  • health;
  • city and regional information networks; and
  • new work methods and services for the job market.

  8.6  In 2000, the Court of Auditors produced a critical report on the operation of the TEN­Telecom programme[52]. To some extent, changes in the programme had already addressed some of the issues identified by the Auditors. This Commission report confirms that there are still some underlying problems, in particular a concentration on small-scale validation studies with low potential impact, and the inclusion in the programme of too few implementation projects. The report makes recommendations on how to remedy these failings.

  8.7  The Court of Auditors identified overlaps between TEN­Telecom and other EU initiatives, such as parts of the research programme and some elements of the regional funds. The Commission, in its report, identifies weaknesses, exacerbated by its complex structure, in marketing and promoting the programme.

  8.8  In the attached proposal on revisions to the guidelines, the Commission attempts to address these issues by improving the definition of the concept of a trans-European project of public interest and by grouping application areas to reduce the number of action lines. Support for technology and infrastructures will no longer be included in the list of areas covered, bringing the guidelines into line with current practice. On the other hand, the revised guidelines pay particular attention to applications for new generation mobile networks and to security issues. In addition, they introduce the need to provide for social inclusion and to accommodate the specific needs of less developed or less populated regions.

  8.9  The Commission proposes to take action on other issues either through:

  • the work programme, which it will draw up for implementing the guidelines, such as by introducing a two-stage process for proposals; or

  • through the TEN financial regulation, an instrument common to the three TEN areas, in which it will increase the level of support for implementation projects.

The Government's view

  8.10  The Minister for eCommerce and Competitiveness (Mr Douglas Alexander) says that the UK supports the intention to improve the focus of the programme. This is in line with the Court of Auditors' report, in that it should help to reduce overlap with other initiatives, and with the Commission's own analysis, in that it will make it easier to market and promote the programme. He comments that the proposed guidelines emphasise:

"—  the importance of eGovernment and eAdministration;

  • the role of new generation mobile networks and trust and confidence services in enabling eCommerce and eGovernment applications and services; and

  • applications for disabled and elderly people. This orientation is generally in line with Government policy.

"On the other hand, the reference to delivery of applications and services over higher bandwidth (broadband) networks is insufficient."

  8.11  The Minister says that many of the application areas identified in the proposed guidelines are the responsibility of other government departments but the DTI will be consulting on the policy implications of the proposal for the Government as a whole. The consultation addresses a number of issues identified in the report and in the Commission's explanatory memorandum but not included in the draft guidelines. These issues will be subject to further discussion, either under the TEN financial regulation, or in drafting the Work Programme.


  8.12  The Minister does not identify in any detail exactly which issues the Government is concerned to discuss further. We ask him to provide us with a fuller view of the Government's position on the proposed guidelines and the issues raised in the document when the consultation is further advanced and before putting forward its position to the Council.

  8.13  Meanwhile, we shall keep this document under scrutiny.

50  Articles 154-156 EC. Back

51  Article 14 of Decision No 1336/97/EC of 17 June 1997. Back

52  (21266) 8310/00; see HC 23-xxvi (1999-2000), paragraph 13 (26 July 2000). Back

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