EU REGULATIONS

Spain bends to Brussels’ will over new supervisory agency

Industry minister to meet with EU commissioner Neelie Kroes in Barcelona on Tuesday

The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy plans to amend a draft bill that calls for the amalgam of a number of key watchdogs after the European Commission (EC) threatened Spain with possible sanctions if it proceeded with the makeover in its current format, Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister José Manuel Soria said Monday.

EC vice president Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for digital issues, wrote to Soria earlier this month to complain about the government’s plan to merge the agencies that currently oversee the energy, trade and telecommunications sectors into a single body to be called the National Commission for Markets and Competition, ostensibly as a cost-cutting measure.

"The proposed legislation infringes on the wording and spirit of the European law on telecommunications," Kroes wrote. "The Commission has no other choice but to present a case for violations if the legislation is adopted without substantial changes related to the independence and functions of the regulators."

Brussels has expressed concern that a lack of independence for key regulators could harm the interests of consumers.

Soria confirmed he had received the letter from Kroes as reported in EL PAÍS on Monday and that he would meet with the commissioner tomorrow in Barcelona, where she is due to attend the Mobile World Congress. “In the meeting I will hold tomorrow in Barcelona, I will inform her that in the bill’s passage through Congress we will incorporate improvements suggested to us by the European Commission in order to guarantee independence,” Soria said.

The minister said that the responsibility for regulating sectors would remain with the supervisory board, not the government. “There will be a clear separation of functions between the defense of competition and the regulators for the energy and telecommunications sectors,” Soria added.

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