Brussels, 26 Feb 2003
Countries that succeed with information communication technologies (ICT) are likely to develop more quickly, was the resounding message from EU Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen, on 24 February.
Speaking on the subject 'Hungary in an enlarged Europe and the information society' at the Budapest University of Technology, Mr Liikanen welcomed the adoption by candidate countries of the action plan eEurope+2003, modelled closely on the EU's own eEurope initiative, which aims to encourage the development of ICT in every part of the economy.
However, despite the action plan, only five countries have so far managed to liberalise fixed network voice markets - eight other candidate countries are still lagging behind. 'The liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in the acceding countries is not complete and some are much further forward than others. For this reason, we are closely monitoring progress towards liberalisation in all acceding countries,' noted the Commissioner.
Among the countries falling behind is Hungary: the reason for this, according to Mr Liikanen, is due to a lack of its relative competitiveness within the EU's internal market and a lower and more varied gross domestic profit (GDP).
Mr Liikanen also noted that gap has widened further due to the successful growth of mobile networks in Western Europe. 'It seems that mobile communication networks have a big part to play in achieving universal affordable access.'
'However, the gap may also be due partly to affordability problems. We are told that as prices have been realigned with costs, which is required by EU law and is unavoidable in a liberalised market, some subscribers have been giving up their telephone service because they can no longer afford it,' suggested Mr Liikanen.
Mr Liikanen closed by reiterating the need to close the economic gap, calling on candidate countries to 'insist on complete liberalisation of communications to drive prices down and quality up and then strive in any way you can to add value in the knowledge economy.' To read the speech in full please click here