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Agreement on trans-European telecommunications networks

The Conciliation Committee, bringing together the European Parliament and Council, has reached agreement on the guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks. Agreement in principle was reached at a meeting on 7 March, and a final text has since been prepared by le...
The Conciliation Committee, bringing together the European Parliament and Council, has reached agreement on the guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks. Agreement in principle was reached at a meeting on 7 March, and a final text has since been prepared by legal experts.

The guidelines on the telecommunications networks will be the last of the trans-European networks guidelines to be adopted, after the adoption of the energy and transport guidelines in 1996. As with these others, Parliament wanted to ensure that it had a say in the selection of priority projects eligible to receive funding.

The agreement reached by the Conciliation Committee provides for an exhaustive list of priority projects, to be drawn up from amongst the projects of common interest. This list will include generic services, such as European directories, trans-European "kiosks", and electronic signatures, as well as applications of collective interest in the sphere of distance education and training, services for SMEs, and telematics in the fields of transport, the environment, health and culture.

The list of projects of common interest will be revised at the end of a three-year period, with Parliament involved in the revision. Individual projects will, however, be chosen by a committee on the basis of a work programme drawn up by the Commission.

Other points contained in the agreement include:

- The inclusion of satellite communications as a project of common interest;
- Concentration solely on real applications using networks available to and usable by a wide section of the population;
- Assessment of the social consequences of the networks to be undertaken;
- The transnational nature of the projects is to be guaranteed;
- Linguistic needs and the specific needs of less-developed regions are to be taken into account;
- Cultural heritage is to be safeguarded, and creative endeavours will also be stimulated.

The agreement reached in the Conciliation Committee is subject to approval by both the Council and Parliament. This is likely to be given in May, following which the guidelines will enter into force, and funding allocated to the telecoms network budget will be available for projects.

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