Speech by Rimantas Sinkevičius, Minister of Transport and Communications, at the European Parliament, Industry, Research and Energy Committee

09 July 2013, Last updated at, 14:48 EEST
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Rimantas Sinkevičius, minister of Transport and Communications | author: European Parliament

Thank you, Madam Chair, Honourable Members

Thank you for this opportunity to present to you the priorities of Lithuanian Presidency in the area of telecommunications.

I would like to start by thanking our Irish predecessors in the Presidency, and, in particular, my colleague Mr Rabbitte and his team, who - with your encouragement and help - have made such significant progress in the consideration of issues relevant to Europe as a whole.

Lithuania is, of course, the first of the Baltic States to assume the responsibilities of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It was less than 10 years ago, in 2004, an important turning point in the history of our country, that Lithuania became a fully-fledged member of the European family.

I would like to emphasise that, even though we are novices in the Presidency, we lack neither determination nor enthusiasm. Look at what Lithuania has achieved since it regained its independence a little more than 20 years ago for proof of that.

As this is Lithuania’s first time at the helm of the Council, may I ask you kindly to afford us the maximum help and cooperation. We look to you in the Parliament as the guarantors of democracy in Europe, as the representatives of Europe’s 500 million citizens, to show us the way.

During its Presidency, Lithuania will seek to be a fair and unbiased intermediary involving all relevant stakeholders in the process.

Recognising the key role of the European Parliament in the EU’s decision-making process following the Lisbon Treaty, we will strive during our Presidency for constructive, effective, and mutually beneficial cooperation, particularly with you in this Committee. Our efforts will be focused on measures aimed at restoring trust in the EU economy; promoting economic growth, employment and the common market; ensuring financial stability; and strengthening the European Union as a global example of openness and security.

While presiding over the Council, our ambition is to push ahead on the development of a credible, growing and open Europe.

As you know, the Irish, Lithuanian and Greek Presidency Trio is the last to be working with this College of Commissioners and this European Parliament. This means time is short. It also means that there are many Commission proposals that remain to be examined and on which decisions still have to be made. So we are cooperating with our partners in the Trio to ensure continuity, clear prioritisation, and maximum efficiency.

In the field of telecommunications, a credible, growing and open Europe points to our focusing on the creation of a dynamic, single European digital market. Let me explain how we propose to go about this.

First of all, we will work to reach early agreement from the Council and the European Parliament on the Trans-European telecommunications network guidelines. The updated text of the TEN-TELE guidelines was presented only at the end of May and, today, your Committee will vote on this issue. I am pleased that we share the same views on this proposal. I therefore hope that, after today’s vote, we can work with your rapporteur, Mr Tosenovsky, so as to reach agreement at first reading.

Our ambition is to create a basis for secure, reliable and easy online transactions that stimulate the market for e-services. So I have told Ministers at the June Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council that the regulation on electronic identification and trust services is a priority for us. It goes without saying that much remains to be done in order to resolve important issues related to this proposal, in particular with respect to the principles of reliability, trust and interoperability. So I hope that our cooperation with your Rapporteur, Ms Marita Ulvskog, can be developed further, ensuring a positive and constructive dialogue on this important issue.

We shall ensure that the Council has made progress by the time your Committee votes on this proposal in September. We anticipate starting negotiations with the Parliament after that with a view to a first reading agreement.

Violation of electronic space is a rapidly increasing threat that spreads beyond the telecommunications sector. Efforts to minimise this threat must be resolved at the EU level if we wish to maintain the digital economy and the soundness and reliability of networks as well as infrastructure facilities of particular significance. That is why we will seek progress in consideration of the proposal for the networks and information security directive, identifying the key risks, challenges, opportunities and issues related to online security.

We shall also seek to make progress in the Council on the proposal for the regulation on reduction of costs of deploying broadband communications. This is designed to increase the efficiency of electronic communications infrastructure development, to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed broadband communication, and to improve the functioning of the internal market for electronic communications.

In order to ensure truly universal access to Internet services, online electronic content must be accessible to disabled persons as well. That is why we want to make progress in consideration of the proposal for the directive on the accessibility of websites of public sector bodies.

To attain the sustainable development objectives of Europe 2020, a review of the regulation on the European Global Satellite Navigation System Agency is one of the most important tasks facing us. The Presidency will seek a common approach on this issue in the Council. But at the same time it is very important that we work together with you, Madam Chair, since you are the Rapporteur on this regulation. We look forward very much to that.

We are also waiting for the Commission’s proposal on the common European market for telecommunications. We hope that, while identifying the objectives of the proposal and the main obstacles that have to be removed in order to create a stable common digital market, the Commission will take account of the issues raised at the June Telecoms Council. We also expect that debate among Ministers will form a significant contribution to discussion by the European Council in October. This will be a good opportunity to highlight the significance of the digital agenda for the EU services market and for small and medium-size enterprises, as well as the links with the EU’s innovation policy.

In conjunction with the European Commission, Lithuania will be organising the ICT 2013 conference in Vilnius this November. This large-scale conference will deal with issues of European policy on information and communication technologies. Among other stakeholders, we very much hope to secure your interest in this conference.

To end, let me just underline my hope that your Committee and I can enjoy a constructive and friendly dialogue as we push ahead with this charged agenda. We share a common goal - a credible, growing and open Europe. I look forward to working with you on its achievement.

Thank you for your attention. I am very happy to take your questions.

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