Arcep speaks

Paul Champsaur’s (Chairman of ARCEP) Farewell statement to the European Regulators Group (ERG) ERG’s plenary meeting in Budapest, Hungary. 5th of December 2008.

Thank you, Daniel.

I wish to thank all of you for the rich discussions that you offered me during the last six years. Understanding the issues that you are facing in your home markets, and how you are dealing with them, helped me a lot addressing the challenges we are facing in regulating the French market.

I would like to share with you a couple of thoughts deriving from this six-year IRG/ERG experience:

First on the European dimension of our task as regulator.

As Matthias said yesterday, we have a natural bias to focus exclusively on our national market and forget that we are operating within a European framework. Sometimes, one could think that we are just an association of national regulators sharing their experience with a very strong feeling that "subsidiarity" is the essence of European construction and the EU Commission is just a useless bureaucracy.

I think that such a philosophy would be completely inappropriate. The decision to liberalise the telecommunication sectors was a European decision, even though some countries had already started this process. It was also a decision to manage jointly and through a well-coordinated process the opening to competition on an EU-wide basis. Thus, as National regulator, we derived a very strong position from this EU-backing.

As usual in the European Framework, the EU institutions are playing a key role in helping Member states to implement an EU-wide harmonised policy on a national basis. NRAs, at least when they implement genuinely the EU framework, are stronger as they are supported in their endeavour by the EU Commission.

Thus, I think that we have a great potential to improve our interaction with the EU commission and that we should stop denying the Commission its role in the implementation of a harmonized regulation across Europe.

This being said I’m also very conscious that both parties are needed in order to work jointly and that recently we haven’t always been helped by the Commission in these matters. Commission staff should be more forthcoming in engaging ERG. Commission experts should participate in ERG working groups and formulate their views early in the process instead of waiting for the plenary to express a disagreement. The Commission should be ready to share with us early draft of proposed recommendations, etc …

I hope that the upcoming conclusion of the Review will open a window to start a balanced, renewed and strengthened relationship between national regulators and the EU Commission.

Second on our internal governance

I think we have made great progresses on how we interact together over the last years. As usual, there is always room for improvement.

ERG, or IRG, we never know exactly who we are, and in which capacity we act.

When we are intervening in the "Review" debate, and in particular on the balance of power between NRAs and the Commission, we are in an advocacy role. Speed, clarity and unanimity are essential if we want to be heard. In this context, the new IRG structure with the setting up of a five-member board was a major achievement to improve our capacity to deliver clear, timely and unanimous messages. Still, we need to have a shared understanding of our goals cleared through our usual internal processes involving all regulators.

When we are dealing with regulatory issues, we are in an advisory/expert role. In this context, we should recognise that we need different rules. The idea that we should always work on a unanimous basis does not make sense. What would be the credibility of a group of more than 30 experts that would always agree in their analysis?

For those substantive discussions addressing regulatory issues, I think we should stick to our traditional structure of governance with a three-tier structure: working groups / meetings of the European-affairs Directors / plenary meetings. Our credibility is rooted in our collective expertise in the working groups. The collective preparatory discussions allow all national regulators to follow all ongoing works in an effective and transparent process. ERG plenary meeting, with the participation of the heads of each NRA and representative of DG INFSO and DG COMP, can then review, and as needed, solve controversial issues in a timely manner, tackling complex technical and economic issues, without any undue precipitation.

Thank you very much and good luck for the continuation of your work.

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