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Francisco Pinto Balsemão
Chairman, EPC
Chairman and CEO,
Impresa S.G.P.S.
Rua Ribeiro Sanches 65
1200 Lisboa
Portugal
Tel: +351 21 392 9782
Fax: +351 21 392 9788
Angela Mills Wade
Executive Director
c/o Europe Analytica
26 Avenue Livingstone
Bte 3
B-1000 Brussels
Belgium
Tel: +322 231 1299
Press Relations
Heidi Lambert Communications
heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk
Tel:  +44 1245 476 265
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EPC news - January / February 2007

Your monthly EU media issues update direct from Europe's leading publishers

 

Information society

 

Dates for the diary

7th February - EPC dinner with Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, Brussels
12-13th February - Informal Ministerial on Germany on TVWF
14-16th February - Conference on the digitisation of cultural heritage, Berlin
15-16th February - Conference on Scientific Information, Brussels
15th March - German presidency conference on Digital Rights
9-11th May - Conference, Strengthening User Trust in Media Services, Leipzig

 

 

Key issues of the month

MEPs vote on TVWF Directive: Cornerstone of broadcasting regulation in Europe

EPC welcomes scope change but disappointed about country of origin

The European Publishers Council (EPC) has broadly welcomed the outcome of the European Parliament First Reading vote today in Strasbourg on the TVW/AMS directive.

EPC Executive Director Angela Mills Wade said: "In particular we welcome clarification that online press is exempt from the directive and that the scope of the directive has been narrowed to "TV and TV-like services", removing any ambiguity from the original text. We do remain concerned, however, that MEPs have voted to chip away at the country of origin principle. We are counting on the European Commission to clarify the extent of the derogations open to Member States that take steps to prohibit programming or advertising originating in other Member States. This clarification is absolutely essential for the fair and proper functioning of the internal market in audiovisual services. If the AMS directive allows for any lack of clarity in the country of origin principle, a media service provider will never know until the day he launches a service which laws he will be subject to."

Next step: The European Commission is likely to publish a revised proposal taking account of the European Parliament’s amendments some time in January and the Council is expected to adopt its Common Position at the June Culture Council meeting. There is a chance, however, that they might already start work on this at an informal Council meeting in February.

 

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Publishers call on MEPs to protect press freedom in forthcoming Rome II debate

As the European Parliament prepares for its Second Reading on Rome II (debates tabled for 13 December during plenary), the EPC and other publishing groups are calling on MEPs to accept the complete exclusion of violation of privacy, rights or personality from the scope as per the Commission’s Common Position that was adopted in September this year. EP Rapporteur Diana Wallis, MEP, has re-tabled her amendment that was adopted at first reading but rejected by the Commission at Common Position stage. This amendment called for the "Country of destination" principle to be applied, that is the country where the media is principally directed. This was acceptable to the media but exclusion is preferred to any solution other than one based on country of origin principles.

Publishers are calling on the European Parliament to:

  • Accept the exclusion of violation of privacy/rights of personality from the scope of Rome II
  • Reject the specific mention of defamation and personality rights in the review clause
  • Reintroduce a reference to compatibility with other EU legislation (notably internal market instruments)

Publishers’ arguments:

  • The Commission has cited Article 65 of the EC Treaty as the legal base for this regulation which means that any measures must be justified according to cross-border implications and to issues relating to the proper functioning of the Internal Market. The Commission itself has admitted that there is an insufficient number of cross-border cases in the area of privacy/defamation to justify any action.[1]
  • Press freedom would be under threat if any further compromise to the EP amendment relating to country of destination of the media – already the minimum protection acceptable - were made. The media cannot be subject to the liability and sanctions of 25 different legal systems just in case their articles are accessed outside the country or countries of their principle audiences/readers.
  • Academics and legal practitioners in this field have concluded that case law should be allowed to develop in the rare cases of cross-border disputes.

 

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Publishers and Commissioner meet around table to thrash out key issues

Europe’s publishers met with Commissioner Reding on 7 December in Brussels to go through all the key issues affecting the media. A summary of the Commissioner’s comments on the key issues follows. Comments on the TVWF directive have been omitted in the light of more recent developments:

  • On Content Online
    The Commission is currently analysing responses to the consultation and a Communication is due in the spring. The Commission’s objective is to protect content and the Commissioner insisted that the EU needed more and different types of content to suit different types of distribution – with an emphasis on European content, not US imports. She said that online media had been excluded from the remit of the TVWF directive to ensure it is free to develop.
  • On advertising bans
    Commissioner Reding insisted that there would be no new ad bans during her time in Commission.
  • On Databases and Directories
    There will be a review in 2008, a Green Paper on universal service in 2007 and there is an undertaking to invite industry stakeholders more regularly to the public sector platform. The Commission will not be shy to issue infringement proceedings against some MS for non implementation with regard to the Public Sector Information Directive.
  • On IP regime
    Commissioner Reding said she believed that this needed to be adapted to the reality of convergence and to create a level playing field between publishers and ISPs to ensure that content and copyright is respected. Consumer lobbies would not necessarily be given everything they asked for. The Commissioner expressed an interest in ACAP (the pilot scheme set up to improve the relationship between publishers and search engines).

In conclusion, Commissioner Reding spoke of her pride in the European press and said it was important to preserve a European way of life and a quality press. She expressed concerns about how young people will tack the media and content online and said that the institutions and the media needed to work together to help confront issues facing the younger generation.

 

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Information society

Political correctness threatening press freedom, says EPC Chairman

Speaking at the European Media Leaders summit in London on 13 November, European Publishers Council (EPC) Chairman, and Francisco Pinto Balsemão warned that political correctness was threatening freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the future competitiveness of Europe’s media.

On the day that the European Parliament and Europe’s Ministers made key decisions on the future direction of the TV Without Frontiers Directive, Mr Balsemão warned politicians not to destabilise the very basis of free circulation of Europe’s TV channels by destroying the country of origin principle. "Allowing one member state to decide whether another country’s TV channels meet their own version of general public interest or interpretation of what is offensive to religious or political beliefs, or racially or sexually discriminating will stifle freedom of expression".

Controversial moves to extend the scope of the regulation to new media services on the internet and mobile platforms, as proposed and supported by MEPs and some Member States, could cripple the future dynamics of the whole media industry. He said, "When we hear politicians or regulators talking about controls on what we upload to the web we become very uncomfortable…No programme or newspaper editor wants to break the law or be publicly embarrassed for overstepping the mark. But what he will fight to reject, is the imposition of new laws that control what he can and cannot say or indeed that require him to publish particular material as the licences and laws covering broadcast TV now do, including European programme production quotas."

At the same time, the EPC’s chairman warned of the repeated threat to advertising, used, he said, to take the blame for society’s wrongs; blame for obesity and alcohol abuse, for example. "This is an era of Political Correctness... when those who run the State seem to feel that they should tell people what to eat and drink and, even, what people should be allowed to say and that they have a right to intercede in decisions and behaviour that should properly be the domain of the individual." He made the point that shooting the messenger that finances the media would lead to fewer publications, less quality programming and less investment in innovation.

The UK’s commercial TV channel ITV has already said that if children’s advertising is compromised, it may pull out of children’s programming entirely.

Mr Balsemão concluded: "It is the role of the Media to stimulate, to challenge, to create new ideas, new futures but to do so, of course, with responsibility. It is the duty of the regulator to approach any needs or problems they observe with consummate care, to take hold of the tiller with a light and sensitive touch. You cannot steer by political belief or political correctness. You must steer towards a horizon where the view will become clearer once the rain has gone."

 

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Commission calls on Members States to step up fight against spam

The Commission has called on all regulatory authorities and stakeholders in Europe to step up the fight against spam, spyware and malicious software. Despite existing EU legislation to outlaw spam in Europe, Europe continues to suffer from illegal online activities from inside the EU and from third countries, the Commission underlines in a new Communication. The Communication stresses that although internet safety is on the political agenda for some time, national authorities should step up their actions to prosecute illegal online activities.

The Communication can be found at: http://europa.eu.int.

 

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EU plans 9 billion euro investment in communication technologies

The EU plans to invest over €9 billion in research on information and communications technologies (ICTs). This is, by far, the largest single budget item in Europe’s 7th research framework programme that will run until 2013 - a priority set by the EU, acknowledging the importance of ICTs for Europe’s growth and competitiveness. To discuss the new research framework programme and the strategic priorities for fundamental and applied ICT research for the future, nearly 3500 members of the research community gathered from 21 to 23 November in Helsinki for the "Information Society Technology 2006" conference and exhibition.

 

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Reding calls for telecoms regulator

Commissioner Reding has repeated her call for an EU regulatory authority for telecommunications to supplement the 25 national authorities.

Speaking to the European Competitive Telecommunications Association conference in November, Reding repeated her proposal concerning a European-level regulatory authority for telecommunications, modeled on the European Central Bank.

 

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EU provides worldwide model for internet safety

An EU programme to tackle illegal and harmful content on the internet has been so successful that it is being used as a model by other regions of the world.

The Safer Internet programme, which has been independently commended, is now being used as a model in how to tackle harmful online content whilst respecting freedom of expression in countries outside the EU including Asia-Pacific region and in Northern and Latin America.

'We have come a long way and very quickly,' said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. 'For many years the Safer Internet programme has been successfully promoting safer use of internet and other online technologies, particularly by children, and fighting illegal and harmful content ranging from child pornography to racism. The Commission has also encouraged industry to be more proactive in dealing with child safety.'

 

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Parliament votes to protect children online

The Parliament has adopted, with a broad majority, a Recommendation on the Protection of Minors and Right of Reply, which aims to better shield minors from illegal content on the internet.

The Parliament adopted without any amendments to the rapporteur's proposal, a report by French Liberal MEP Marielle de Sarnez, which defines three key areas of responsibility for protecting children from internet risks including the online industry, better education, and government control.

The report considers automatic filters to be the most effective measures for blocking access to violent or pornographic content. Presently, such filters can only work if they are provided with 'blacklisted' sites. The report calls on internet service providers to deliver and regularly update such information.

The Parliament also called for the creation of a sub-domain of the .eu top level domain, called .kid.eu, which would contain only constantly monitored content fit for children.

With regard to the right of reply in the online media the report adopted states that the proposal ‘seeks to facilitate exercise of a right of reply in all online media’. The rapporteur however recognises that ‘this already works satisfactorily in the written press and audiovisual services in all the Member States’. She calls to establish ‘minimum guidelines’ at European level concerning ‘exercise of the right of reply in respect of all new electronic communications media’.

 

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Copyright

Commission publishes levies consultation feedback

The replies to the public Consultation launched by the Commission on 19 June 2006 on copyright levies have now been published. The consultation focused on the scope of the private copying exception and existing systems of remuneration.

The following categories of stakeholders have provided the Commission with their replies:

  • Users and consumers
  • Member States and academics
  • Collecting societies and rightholders organisations
  • Record and film producers
  • Individual rightholders
  • ICT industry

The Commission is currently reviewing its 2001 copyright directive with a Recommendation planned to be published in December 2006 which focuses on a levies reform. However, on Wednesday 13 December the Commission decided to delay indefinitely the publication of new rules to deal with copyright levies.

The responses to the levies consultation can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu.

 

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ECJ onto Spain over copyright

The European Court of Justice has decided that Spain has disadvantaged copyright owners by applying an EU directive on lending rights too liberally.

The ECJ has backed the Commission's claim that Spain has failed to fulfill its obligations under a 1992 directive on rental right and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright.

The directive provided that EU member states should put in place legislation to provide "a right to authorize or prohibit the rental and lending of originals and copyright works".

Article 5 of the directive provided exceptions for public lending, provided authors obtain remuneration, and said that member states may exempt "certain categories of establishments" from paying remuneration.

 

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ECJ rules on copyright fees for TV in hotels

The ECJ ruled that hotels that have television sets in their rooms must respect copyright rules, making them liable to pay fees. The court found that according to European Union law a television set in a private room is used by the public and is therefore covered by copyright laws.

 

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Digital library

Microsoft opens digital library

Microsoft is gearing up to launch a new online book search service enabling internet users to find content from books, periodicals and other print resources.

The digital archive will include books from the British Library, the University of California and the University of Toronto. Other institutions including the New York Public Library and Cornell University expected to come on board in the near future.

 

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FP7 funding supporting digital libraries project

The Commission will hold information days from 24 to 25 January 2024 in Luxembourg on funding via the FP7. The event particularly addresses researchers interested in submitting project proposals under the first calls of FP7, theme 'Information and communication technologies' (ICT). Specifically, the information days in Luxembourg will focus on two research challenges in the ICT Work Programme 2007-08:

  • Challenge 2: Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics
  • Challenge 4, Objective 1: Digital Libraries and Technology-enhanced Learning
  • Challenge 4, Objective 2: Intelligent Content and Semantics

Registration closes on 7 January 2024. To find out more visit: http://cordis.europa.eu.

 

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Broadening representation in the European Digital Library

As the Commission intend to make available more than six million books, documents and other culturally significant works online within the new European Digital Library over the coming five years, the IST project TEL-ME-MOR aims to ensure that the national libraries of the newer EU member states are included in this ambitious objective.

The TEL-ME-MOR project is due to end in January 2007 and has already achieved to integrate content from eight out of the ten newly included national libraries. Most of these collections are already fully searchable. According to the project’s spokesman the ‘the remaining two libraries are in the process of joining the service, and will become official members by the end of 2006’.

‘That means that altogether there will be fifty-two collections in the European Digital Library by January 2007, forty-one of them searchable and thirty-two containing digital content’.

As well as helping the national libraries with the nuts-and-bolts process of putting their digital content online, TEL-ME-MOR has also conducted several studies on issues such as the research and development activities of European national libraries and multilingual online access.

The TEL-ME-MOR project has also been active in promoting exchanges on the future direction of Europe’s online heritage.

 

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Scientific Publishing Conference in Brussels

On 15 and 16 February 2023 the European Commission will host a conference in Brussels on scientific publication issues.

The goal of the conference is to bring together stakeholders concerned with access, dissemination and preservation issues in connection with scientific publication and data in an effort to provide policy options for scientific publishing under FP7 and in the European Research Area. Both the Commissioner for Science and Research, Mr. Potocnik and the Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Ms. Reding will be speaking at the event.

The Commission Communication on Scientific Communication is expected to be published in January 2007.

To register for the event go to https://webgate.cec.eu.int.

 

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Advertising

Council debates alcohol-related harm

Meeting 30 November – 1 December in Brussels, the Employment, Social Policy and Health Council will be working on its political agreement on a draft decision on a second programme in the field of health (public deliberation). It will adopt conclusions on health in all policies (public debate) and on the EU strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm (public debate).

The Council will hold exchanges of views on the international health regulations and on the follow-up to the high level reflection process on patient mobility and healthcare developments in the EU (public debates).

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/lsa/91867.pdf

 

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Ban on junk food advertising threatens children’s broadcasting in the UK

Media agencies have apparently begun planning to withdraw millions of pounds worth of junk food advertising and sponsorship from TV shows in the UK following proposed new rules by UK regulator Ofcom. It is estimated that at least £39 million a year will be wiped off TV ad revenues.

Ofcom has announced that it will no only ban advertising of junk food within dedicated children's programming, as expected, but will extend the ban to all shows with a high under-16 audience.

 

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Self-regulation not enough to combat obesity, says Commissioner

Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou has stated that self-regulation governing advertising to children and labelling of foods does not go far enough to promote health and prevent obesity in the EU. He was speaking following the pan-European conference on obesity that took place on 15-17 November in Istanbul.

The Commission is concerned that serious legislative measures will have to be adopted to tackle the problem. 27% of men, 38% of women are obese and 400,000 children a year are becoming obese in the EU.

The Istanbul conference saw 48 countries sign up to the European Charter to fight obesity, with the objective of reversing the trend by 2015, with a particular focus on children and teenagers.

People in Luxembourg, Denmark and Ireland are gaining weight at the fastest rate in the EU, according to a survey conducted for the European Commission.

Published on Thursday (9 November), last year's research shows that Luxembourgers put on an average of 2.7kg since 2002, the Danes 1.7kg and the Irish 1.6kg.

 

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German parliament votes for tobacco ad ban

The lower house of the German parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on tobacco advertising that would bring Berlin in line with European Union directives.

Under the bill, cigarette manufacturers will still be able to advertise on billboards and on cinema screens after 7:00 pm.

 

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Parliament supports restrictions on junk food advertising

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted this week on the Green Paper ‘Promoting Healthy Diets and Physical Activity’.

Although MEPs have recognised that ‘obesity is multi-factorial and as such requires a holistic approach involving many different policy areas’ many detrimental amendments to the freedom to advertise have been accepted by the Committee.

MEPs have condemned ‘the frequency and the intensity of television campaigns designed to advertise and promote foodstuffs targeted exclusively at children’ and calls for ‘EU-wide controls to restrict TV advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children’ arguing that ‘there is strong evidence that TV advertising influences short-term consumption patterns of children aged between 2 and 11 years’.

MEPs agreed that should the EU Platform on Physical Activity, Diet and Health should focus on industry commitments to end the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children. Should these measures be unsuccessful the Parliament urges the Commission to propose binding legislation.

In addition, MEPs have pointed out that ‘new forms of advertising to children such as text messaging to mobile phones, on-line games and sponsorships of playgrounds should not be exempt from such consideration’.

The European Parliament requested the Commission ‘to conduct impact assessments on relevant policy proposals to determine their impact on public health, obesity and nutrition goals’.

 

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ECJ dismissed German tobacco ad ban challenge

This week the ECJ decided in the German tobacco advertising case and dismissed Germany’s action.

The ECJ decided to dismiss the action brought by the German government on the grounds that at the time of the Directive’s adoption, disparities existed between national rules on advertising and sponsorship, which justified intervention by the Community legislature, and that the articles do aim to improve the functioning of the Internal Market.

The Court adds that as long as the conditions for the use of Art 95 are met, it is irrelevant if there is a public health aim as well.

Finally, the Court also states that the articles are proportionate and that they do not prejudice the fundamental right of freedom of the press and of expression.

The full text of the judgment can be found at: http://curia.europa.eu.

 

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VAT

Commission proposes extending VAT directive to electronic services

The European Commission proposes to extend the period of application of the "e-commerce VAT" Directive to 31 December 2008. In May 2006, the Commission already proposed an extension till end 2008. However, the Council of Ministers decided last June to limit the extension till the end of 2006. The objective of this proposal remains the same as the earlier extension proposal (see IP/06/621). Without this extension, the rules for services supplied by electronic means as well as to radio and television broadcasting services would revert to those prevailing prior to the changes introduced by the Directive. Further information on current legislation on VAT applied to electronically delivered services is available on the following website:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/taxation_customs/taxation/vat/traders/e-commerce/index_en.htm

 

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French finance minister calls for reduced rate for online press

French economic affairs and finance minister Thierry Breton has presented a proposal to his colleagues in the ECOFIN Council aiming to authorise member states to apply a reduced rate of VAT to the online press (papers and periodicals). These rates cannot currently be below the minimum VAT rate of 15% set in the Sixth VAT Directive (only traditional' papers are eligible for reduced rates).

He argued that the development of the online press was being held back at a time when the written press needed to adapt to the ongoing digital revolution. He proposed that the Council include this derogation to Annex H of Directive 77/388/CE.

 

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Consumer Protection

New Commissioner for Consumer Protection

Speaking to the European Parliament the Consumer Protection Commissioner designate, Bulgaria's Meglena Kuneva, announced that she plans to make her future portfolio "more visible".

"I will be taking decisions on the basis of an open dialogue with Members of the European Parliament and with other interested parties," such as consumer groups, she announced at her hearing before the European Parliament on 27 November. For Kuneva, consumer protection, which for the first time is being treated under a separate portfolio, has a separate legal basis. "I will make use of this," she promised. The commissioner designate plans to ensure continuity in her action with the work already achieved by Markos Kyprianou, who keeps the health and food safety portfolio. They will implement a "common strategy" against tobacco and alcohol abuse.

Her responsibility will focus on reform of the Community acquis governing consumer protection in the EU. A Green Paper that will kick off a public consultation on this subject is due out on 12th December.

The review of the Consumer Protection Acquis covers eight directives aiming at protecting consumers. The Green Paper is said to list three possible option to approach the review of the consumer acquis: the horizontal approach (consolidating issues which are common to all directives in a horizontal directive whilst being complemented by certain number of vertical actions whenever needed), the vertical approach (the existing directives would be amended separately), and thirdly no legislative action.

Commissioner Kuneva also intends "to identify certain areas" where "maximum harmonisation" should be applied. "All identified shortcomings could be remedied through an initiative," she explained, mentioning the digital environment and online. "The idea is not to have a levelling-down, but a similar culture in Europe of compliance with internal market standards," replied Kuneva. (whatever this will mean – it cannot be good).

"Total harmonisation is desirable where it is possible, in very targeted areas," she continued. She mentioned the success of the Directive on unfair commercial practices.

 

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Postal Services

Council less enthusiastic about Postal Service liberalisation

At the Telecommunications Council, the Commission had presented its proposal, which would amend the current Postal Directive 97/67/EC, together with a report on implementation of the current directive and an impact analysis of full postal liberalisation.

The proposal, published on 18 October, represents confirmation of the market-opening timetable set out in the current Postal Directive as well as safeguards for a 'common' level of universal services in all EU countries; harmonised principles for postal services regulation and removal of other obstacles to an open market.

At the first' exchange of views at the Council meeting some Member State expressed reservations.

In the meantime the industry coalition, ‘The Postal Users Group’, of which EPC is a member, has called on Brussels to back plans to open up the European postal market by 2009 and respond to growing levels of direct mail volumes.

According to estimates by Mintel, the online retail market will have grown by 186% between 2005 and 2010, but the PUG is keen to stress that printed press content ‘will continue to be an important means of disseminating information, ideas and entertainment’.

Per Mortensen, chairman of PUG, said ‘the market can grow and in so doing provide real long-term confidence in the security of universal services. But it can only grow if postal operators become more responsive to users and that's not going to happen unless the market is fully opened’.

 

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Council adopts Services Directive

On 11 December, the EU Council adopted, without debate and by qualified majority, the Services Directive. The directive was finally approved in Parliament in November, following an explanatory statement by the Commission on labour law and excluded services. The new legislation aims to establish an internal market in services through the removal of legal and administrative barriers to the development of service activities. Abstaining in the Council were Lithuania and Belgium.

 

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For more information please contact:
For more information, please contact Angela Mills-Wade on Tel: +44 1865 310732 or Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476265 or visit www.epceurope.org.

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