In a press release the European Commission (EC) has revealed it has sent Latvia a reasoned opinion, the second phase of an infringement proceeding, for not following EU rules that guarantee the independence of national telecoms regulators. According to the EC, the Latvian authorities failed to respond to its initial formal warning in September 2008, when it claimed the country was ‘failing to ensure that its national telecoms regulator operated independently’. Commenting on the latest course of action EU Telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reding, said, ‘Making sure that government departments with regulatory tasks are not at the same time involved in the ownership and control of state-owned telecoms companies is one of the principles that guarantee independence and impartiality of national telecoms regulators. This principle must be respected in all cases where ministries carry out telecoms regulatory tasks. I therefore call on the Latvian authorities to ensure that this EU legal requirement is applied with respect to the Latvian Ministry of Transport.’
The criticism relates to Latvia’s Ministry of Transport, which prepares decisions on the allocation of radio frequencies and management of the national numbering plan. At the same time, the Ministry of Transport manages activities related to ownership and control with regard to two fully state-owned communications and network providers – State Information Network Agency (VITA) and Latvian State Centre for Radio and Television (LGTSRT). EU telecoms rules require member states that retain ownership or control of the companies that provide telecoms networks and/or services to ensure effective structural separation of the regulatory function from activities associated with ownership or control.