Brussels, 06 Jan 2004
Dermot Ahern, the Irish Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, has said that the key issue facing EU communications ministers during the Irish Presidency is the development and exploitation of broadband infrastructure and services.
Speaking in advance of a series of meetings between the Irish government and the European Commission in Dublin, Mr Ahern said: 'The challenge we will set for the EU is to ensure that broadband is not just universally available throughout the EU, but crucially, is universally accessible and affordable.'
The minister sees the Commission's mid-term review of the eEurope 2005 Action Plan, to be conducted during the Irish Presidency, as an opportunity to make progress on the introduction of broadband into schools. 'As part of this review, I want to see the Commission consider the question of minimum mandated levels of broadband deployment to schools. This will guarantee minimal standards of access to broadband and, in turn, skills development for all young people in the EU. This is one concrete way for us to position Europe as a leading knowledge economy in global terms.'
The general approach of the Irish Presidency, he said, is that in cases where there is clear evidence of market failure to deliver broadband, 'it should be recognised that there is a legitimate role for State intervention on a targeted, transparent and competitively neutral basis.' EU ministers will discuss the issues of content and demand stimulation, as well as broadband deployment, at an informal meeting in Dundalk, Ireland, from 21 to 23 April.
Apart from working to reduce barriers to the development of Internet content in Europe, the Irish Presidency is also committed to promoting a multilingual and multicultural web environment, and tackling illegal and harmful uses of the Internet. 'I will be pressing for an international agreement on the outlawing of spam mailings and the imposition of internationally agreed penalties for sending spam messages,' said Mr Ahern.
Also responsible for energy policy during the Irish presidency of the EU, Mr Ahern said that he intends to promote the use of renewable energy sources, coupled with increased efficiency and the conservation of energy. The international conference for renewable energies, due to take place in Bonn, Germany in June, will be the first major event to follow up on the discussions that took place on sustainable energy at the Johannesburg summit in 2002. Mr Ahern claimed that the Irish Presidency is preparing a draft Declaration for this conference calling on any countries that have not yet joined the Johannesburg renewable energy coalition to consider doing so.
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