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20th Jan 2018

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Roaming draft scrapped after Juncker heard about it

  • Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker "feels that this proposal is not satisfactory and that we need to aim higher and come up with something better," a spokesman said. (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission on Friday (9 September) withdrew a draft proposal on roaming it presented on Monday because its president Jean-Claude Juncker said it was "not satisfactory enough", when he heard about it afterwards.

"It was a technical proposal that our services drafted. The president feels that this proposal is not satisfactory and that we need to aim higher and come up with something better," commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told journalists on Friday.

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The draft proposal outlined a 90-day period during which calls, text messaging and internet use from one country to the other would be exempt from surcharges, and gave the possibility for operators to introduce surcharges after that period.

The proposal was to implement an agreement from June 2015 between the commission, the European Parliament and member states to phase out roaming charges while maintaining a “fair use safeguard” to prevent abusive uses.

Winterstein explained that the proposal was drafted during the so-called comitology process, which involves experts from member states under the commission's authority.

"When a draft is sent to comitology process, it becomes public so that everyone can have his say," he pointed out, adding that "at that point the president isn't necessarily informed."

'Not a flip-flop'

Because the commission is a political commission, Winterstein explained, Juncker took a "political decision" and asked for improvements when he learned of the draft proposal.

The spokesman did not say why the commission president, or his cabinet, did not know about the draft proposal, even though roaming has been one of the EU's flagship measures to ease the life of EU citizens.

On Tuesday, Winterstein announced in the press room that "the end of the roaming charges was fixed for June 2017. The commission has promised it and now the commission is indeed delivering now."

What happened after, the same spokesman said on Friday, is that Juncker "heard and saw the feedback ... He considered that in view of this feedback, which the commission was actively seeking, this proposal was not adequate."

The proposal was criticised by MEPs who accused the commission of reneging on the promise to phase out roaming.

The centre-left S&D group said the proposal was “complete nonsense”.

After Juncker's decision to scrap the draft, the Party of European Socialists posted on Tweeter: "The @EU_Commission drops its proposal to limit #roaming to 90 days. Thank you all for supporting our claim!"

The leader of the centre-right EPP group in the parliament, Manfred Weber, said that he expected the commission to "give a strong signal" that there will be "no more roaming fees from European consumers in 2017."

Winterstein rejected claims that the commission abruptly changed its mind in face of MEPs pressure.

"What you are calling flipflop, I call it 'taking into account feedback that we received'," he told journalists.

He said that roaming charges "are going to disappear on 1 June 2017, period." But he declined to say how the commission will now give satisfaction to its president and to all parties to the 2015 agreement.

EU redoubles attack on roaming charges

After an embarrassing U-turn last week, the EU commission has proposed to abolish roaming charges by June next year. Only "abusive" clients to pay.

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The EU Commission chief warned Europe is more divided than ever before, but that Brexit does not mean it is falling apart. He also promised free wifi, an EU army of sorts, and more investments.

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