European Law Monitor

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newsCommission refers POLAND to the Court of Justice of the European Union for undermining the independence of the national telecommunications regulator

 

The Commission has decided today to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union for breaching EU law safeguarding the independence of the national regulatory authority (NRA), the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE).

Using an urgent procedure in May 2020, Poland amended certain provisions of the Polish telecommunications law concerning the appointment and dismissal of the Heads of the Polish national regulatory authority, the Office of Electronic Communications. With the same amending legislation, the Polish government prematurely dismissed the Head of the Polish NRA as of May 2020, when his mandate should have lasted until September 2021. Under EU rules, the conditions that can result in an early dismissal of an NRA Head must be laid down before the start of the mandate. This is an important safeguard to guarantee the independence of the national regulatory authority from political pressure.

Background

The independence of the national regulatory authority is a key principle of the EU telecoms regime. It aims at guaranteeing that the authority can make objective decisions and act impartially, including from both the regulated businesses and political pressure. The principle was safeguarded by the then applicable Framework Directive, and was recently underscored in the Electronic Communications Code.

The Commission's decision to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union follows an exchange of views between the Commission and Polish authorities. The Commission sent a Letter of formal notice to Poland in July 2020 and upon reply from the Polish authorities, the Commission sent a Reasoned opinion in February 2021 to which Poland has also replied. The exchange of views did not resolve the matter. The Commission found the explanations provided by Poland to be unsatisfactory and inconsistent with the requirements of the European Electronic Communications Code, which the legislative changes of May 2020 purported to implement. As a result, the European Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

For More Information

EU Infringement procedure

Infringements database

On the key decisions in the September 2021 infringements package, see MEMO.

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