The European Commission has published a proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on interconnection in telecommunications with regard to ensuring universal service and interoperability through application of the principles of Open Network Provision (ONP). Proposed in the context of a general legislative reform package for the telecommunications sector, this draft Directive establishes a regulatory framework for securing the interconnection and interoperability of telecommunications networks and services in the Community, in an environment of open and competitive markets. In particular, it concerns the harmonization of conditions for open and efficient interconnection to public telecommunications networks and public telecommunication services. The Directive lays down harmonized principles for interconnection which are to be implemented at national level by the Member States. Once transposed, the Directive will enable new market entrants to access existing business and residential customers, on a basis which will encourage increased investment and market growth in the telecommunications services sector, within a predictable and stable regulatory framework. At the same time, it will put safeguards in place to ensure interconnection and interoperability of networks and services so that users may increasingly benefit from the universal provision of telecommunications services throughout the Community. The main features of the proposed Directive are: - Application of the ONP principles of transparency, objectivity and non-discrimination, in accordance with the principle of proportionality; - Priority given to commercial negotiations between interconnecting parties while reserving some conditions to be set by national telecommunications regulatory authorities; - Clear responsibilities for national regulatory authorities, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, including effective mechanisms for dispute resolution. Full competition in the provision of telecommunications services and network infrastructure is expected to be introduced in most Member States by 1 January 1998.