President of the National Communications Authority (ANC) Liviu Nistoran said on Thursday (Jan 29) the body's independence is very important for the Romanian telecoms market.
"The European Commission opens the infringement proceeding only when it deals with a major violation of the European rules. The recently-announced infringement proceeding proves the Authority's importance for the Romanian telecoms market and the importance of this body's independence.
We are speaking of the Authority which regulates seven billion euro market and 8% of GDP", Nistoran said after the European Commission had announced it was opening a case of infringement (the violation of the European Community Treaty) against Romania.
Nistoran stressed "it is high time the Government, Parliament and particularly the politicians who make up these institutions realize, in turn, the importance of the Authority's independence".
"The message sent Romania today says that ‘For the (European) Commission, it is of crucial importance to avoid another hasty restructuring of Romania's telecoms regulator and to find a more sustainable institutional solution fully reflecting the letter and the spirit of EU rules on the independence of regulators," the ANC president said.
The European Commission on Thursday opened the infringement proceeding against Romania as a result of the massive interference with the independence of the national telecoms regulator. The Commission believes the independence of such authority is of central importance to a correct and unbiased regulation, in the interest of competition and consumers.
In last autumn, European Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding announced the European Union executive body will prepare an infringement proceeding against Romania over the violation of the independence of the Romanian telecoms regulatory authority (the removal of the ANRCTI chairman, the disregard of a court ruling and the subsequent change of ANRCTI into ANC by then Minister Laszlo Borbely).
"The Romanian government's decision in 2008 first to remove the President of the national telecoms regulator and then, after a court ruling suspending this decision, to restructure and rename this authority represents, in the view of the European Commission, a serious violation of the regulator's independence. Following repeated warnings, the Commission today opened an infringement proceeding against Romania by sending a letter of formal notice under Article 226 of the EC Treaty to the Romanian government", EC spokesman Martin Selmayr said on Thursday.
He added that EU Telecoms Commissioner Reding spoke on the phone with the recently appointed Romanian Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Gabriel Sandu to discuss how the current illegality of the legislation in Romania could be changed in conformity with the letter and the spirit of EU law.
The European official called on the Romanian authorities to do their utmost to ensure the stability and independence of the telecoms regulator, "both for legal certainty and for sound and fair regulation of the market." "For us, the issue is not this or that person, but that long-term, stable solutions are found to secure the independence of whoever is at the helm of the regulator," Reding stressed.
In September 2008, the Bucharest Court of Appeal suspended the decision taken by Romania's Prime Minister one month earlier to replace the President of Romania's telecoms regulator (Dan Georgescu – editor's note). Following the court's decision, the ANRCTI president should have been reinstalled in his position.
However, the court ruling was not enforced because the Romanian government adopted emergency legislation, on the same day this ruling was made public, thereby restructuring and renaming the ANRCTI and appointing a new president. This deprived the court ruling of its effect.