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Italy putting lives at risk with emergency call flaws: EU

The European Commission on Wednesday accused Italy of putting lives at risk by failing to properly instal a Europe-wide emergency call system, seeking court fines to punish authorities in Rome.

"I regret that the commission has had to ask the court to impose financial sanctions on Italy, but I will not stand by and see citizens' lives put at risk due to a government's failure to act," said EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The EU criticism centres on the failure of Italy's authorities to provide full caller location details for the emergency services.

"It is extremely important for emergency services in Italy to be able to locate emergency callers, it is often a case of life and death," said Kroes.

The European Commission is asking the EU Court of Justice to fine Italy for failing to respect a previous court judgment over the issue, she said.

The problem concerns the Europe-wide phone number, 112, which was first introduced in 1991 as a complement to national emergency service numbers and is up and running in all 27 EU member states.

The system is especially aimed at people travelling between different parts of Europe, even though there is no guarantee that the person on the other end of the line will speak their language.

Since 1998, EU rules have required member states to ensure that all fixed and mobile phone users can call 112 free of charge.

But most EU nations have so far also kept their separate emergency systems, with Denmark and the Netherlands the only ones to have switched exclusively to the 112 number.