A long hard-fought round of applause echoed around the chamber at the Strasbourg as parliamentarians greeted the overwhelming majority vote that will now see the revised Telecoms Package enter into EU law. In stark contrast, only a ripple of reaction flowed across the (crowded) public gallery, unaware of what was just voted…
Catherine Trautmann (S&D, FR) looked notably relieved when the result of the roll call vote appeared on the large electronic screens at the head of the chamber; 510 votes in favour, 40 against, 24 abstentions.
This final vote on the package, taken on Tuesday (24th) in Strasbourg, became possible following an agreement reached on 4 November in conciliation committee which aimed to dispel the controversy surrounding the now infamous amendment 138 regarding the process of a user having his Internet access rescinded.
The agreement reached by the Conciliation Committee, whose EP delegation was chaired by Vice-President Alejo Vidal-Quadras (EPP, ES), was the addition of the clause that restrictions on users’ Internet access may “only be imposed if they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society” and are the result of a “prior, fair and impartial procedure”.
After congratulating Mme Trautmann on her success, EP President Jerzy Buzek said: "This legislative package is a prime example of how the work we are doing as European legislators has an impact on the daily life of citizens. I am delighted that we have contributed to strengthening the rights of users of electronic communications and the internet".
Speaking to the press that afternoon, Mme Trautmann said: "We wanted to ensure that citizens' rights would never be scorned or ignored."
"This is the first time that a legal text refers to the use of internet as the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms... this is a very positive signal from the Parliament," she said.
Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding was impressed with the majority vote it achieved, and was caught exclaiming before the start of the press conference "510, c'est énooooorme" ("510, that's huuuuuuuuuge"
). She later declared it "a victory for the internal market, for EU consumers, and for the European Parliament."
The directive will significantly improve consumer rights with the possibility now of customers to have their mobile telephone number transferred within one working day when changing operators and steps taken to strengthen personal data and privacy protection when surfing the Internet.
In addition, it also features rules for the harmonisation of the radio spectrum management across the EU, and for improving co-operation among Member States' telecoms regulators.