On March 03-04, 2020 the NCCIR representatives took part in the 9th meeting of the Independent Regulators and Broadband Expert Working Group (IRB EWG) of the Eastern Partnership Electronic Communications Regulators Network (EaPeReg), which was held in Belgrade, Republic of Serbia.
The event brought together representatives of the national regulatory authorities of electronic communications (NRA) of 6 Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, EU Member States (Czech Republic, Federal Republic of Germany, Italian Republic, Portuguese Republic, Romania, Republic of Slovenia, Kingdom of Sweden), Republic of Serbia, experts of the EU4Digital project, Cullen International, as well as the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the Civil Society Forum.
The key objectives of the regular IRB EWG meeting were to discuss the Methodology on national electronic communications regulatory authorities independence assessment for the EaP countries (hereinafter – the Methodology), that was prepared by the EU4Digital team in cooperation with IRB EWG experts, as well as agree on the next steps to complete the independence assessment activities of the EaP countries.
Therefore, in preparation for the IRB EWG meeting, the experts of the EaP countries completed a part of a special questionnaire prepared by the experts of the EU4Digital project as an appendix to the Methodology mentioned. In particular, information on the general mandate of the NRA, its structure, and the funding provided to the questionnaire was summarized and presented for all 6 EaP countries during the IRB EWG meeting. Experts also prepared a preliminary plan for further work on the Methodology and supported the proposal to postpone the visits to the EaP countries planned for the nearest future due to COVID-19 outbreak at a later date.
In addition, during intensive two working days of the event, members of IRB EWG were able to present information on the broadband development situation in each of the EaP countries, as well as to get acquainted with the best practices of the European colleagues regarding the construction of broadband infrastructure maps, including demonstration of their capabilities, as well as other tools to ensure the effective formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies for the broadband development and its regulation.
During the event particular attention was paid to the urgent issue for Ukraine concerning ensuring the independence of NRA. Experts from the NRAs of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Italian Republic and the Portuguese Republic shared their valuable experience with the representatives of the EaP countries. Discussions on the information presented highlighted the crucial importance of ensuring the NRAs’ independence in terms of financing, decision-making and ensuring their effective implementation in order to fulfill key functions: consumer rights protection, providing favorable conditions for the development of the electronic communications market and, last but not least, representing the interests of the state.
Within the 9th IRB EWG meeting, a separate meeting of EaPeReg and BEREC representatives was also held in order to establish cooperation between their expert working groups within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding which was concluded for the new term. Thus, experts exchanged views and plans for future cooperation, as well as expectations of such cooperation.
In the upcoming months, the activities of the NRAs of the EaP countries, including NCCIR, will be directed towards the implementation of the arrangements made during the 9th IRB EWG meeting, working on the Methodology and the mentioned questionnaire, as well as preparation for a number of meetings and meetings on the relevant issue, which are previously planned for the autumn 2020.
The participation of NCCIR representatives in EaPeReg activities is extremely important in order to gain valuable experience from EU Member States on the broadband development and maximize the effectiveness of NRAs independence, which is a key aspect of ensuring the functioning and development of the industry.