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The European Commission says it has stepped up its drive to ensure that telecoms deregulation in the area will be delivered on schedule next year by preparing to take legal action against several member states. The EC says it has drawn up a report card regarding telecoms liberalization and that several EU member states had yet to adopt legislation required to ensure that phone services are fully liberalized on January 1, 1998. As a result, the commission said it would be launching so-called infringement proceedings later this month, which could result in EU states where legislation is not in order being called before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. EU Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert would not say which countries would face legal challenges, but he reportedly hinted that the group would include Greece and Belgium. In addition, the commission said although many governments had adopted the legislation needed to open up the EU’s market next year, some of these laws were not being correctly applied, resulting in long delays for companies seeking to challenge dominant telecoms operators, usually state monopolies. Van Miert also promised to pursue vigorously complaints by private telecoms operators against national monopolies. As an example of the ECs power, Van Miert highlighted the recent ruling from the German Postal and Telecommunications Ministry to set the maximum interconnection rate that Deutsche Telekom could charge competitors – a move that will cut interconnection fees by 78%. The commission says it is currently studying about 15 complaints against phone monopolies.

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