EC sets two stages for full liberalisation of services by 1998

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The Independent Online
BRUSSELS - The European Community plans to move to full liberalisation of all telephone services by 1998, Karel Van Miert, the competition commissioner, said yesterday, writes Andrew Marshall.

This would open up new markets for telephone services providers such as BT in an attempt to bring down costs.

The Commission's decision to proceed so rapidly will anger some of the EC's national telephone monopolies, which wanted the deadline to be the end of the century.

Others, including Britain and Denmark, the two most advanced with liberalisation, would have liked faster progress.

An intermediate stage, with liberalisation of services between member states, had been rejected after consultations with telephone companies and regulators, Mr Van Miert said.

The plan has two phases. In the first, to end this year, decisions would be made on objectives and the schedule. This would be made in parallel with plans for liberalising mobile communications and allowing private user groups to set up their own networks. In the second phase, from 1995 to 1998, preparations would be made to open the telephone service to competition.

Proposals will now be circulated in the Commission and presented to a meeting of national telecommunications ministers on 10 May.