Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Top Official in Europe Vows to End Roaming Fees ; Barroso's Pitch Sits Well with Mobile Users, but Operators Are Opposed

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Top Official in Europe Vows to End Roaming Fees ; Barroso's Pitch Sits Well with Mobile Users, but Operators Are Opposed

Article excerpt

Jose Manuel Barroso's call for a single telecommunications market grabs a popular idea at a time of doubt over greater European Union power.

The European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, called on Wednesday for an end to the high fees charged for making mobile phone calls across national borders, seizing on one of the few truly popular European initiatives at a time of rising skepticism about the European Union.

"I would like to announce today we will formally adopt a proposal that gives a push toward a single market for telecoms," Mr. Barroso said during his State of the Union address before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The European authorities have already "dramatically brought down roaming costs," he said, and the latest proposal will go further to "lower prices for consumers and present new opportunities for companies."

The European Union already caps roaming fees, and Neelie Kroes, the Union's commissioner responsible for telecommunications, suggested in May that the fees be ended. Mr. Barroso's support for breaking down barriers between telecommunications markets should give the initiative added momentum, but it comes as France, Germany and Britain grow ever more wary of giving Mr. Barroso and the commission more powers.

A debate over where to put authority over issues like the economy, the euro, and immigration policy will be a major challenge for the bloc in the years ahead, and any decision is likely to require a long and acrimonious battle to change the Union's treaties. During his speech, Mr. Barroso highlighted the advances being made by the economy, saying that "recovery is within sight."

But on a day when the French government said it would miss its deficit target this year and Portugal called for an easier deficit goal in 2014, Mr. Barroso also warned that, "even one fine quarter doesn't mean we are out of the economic heavy weather." Many Europeans, including the 26 million people who are unemployed, still face hardship, he said.

Mr. Barroso also warned governments against backsliding on commitments to reform their economies, including initiatives that would centralize control over major banks. In what amounted to criticism of Germany, which has slowed down the bank initiative over concerns of having pay for crises in other member states, Mr. Barroso said there was "a direct link between one country's loans and another country's banks, between one country's investments and another country's business, between one country's workers and another country's companies."

"This kind of interdependence means only European solutions can work," he said.

Mr. Barroso also sparred with Martin Callanan, a British member of Parliament and a member of the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has called for a referendum to decide whether Britain should quit the Union. …

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