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The European Community Council of (telecommunications) Ministers finally endorsed a two-speed plan for liberalising telephone service in the Community, but where we are all required to gallop towards monetary union (the ramifications of which are far too complex for any European head of government to understand), progress towards open telecommunications markets on the continent will be at a snail’s pace: the ministers agreed after a long debate that all but the four poorest countries should end national monopolies over speech telephony by January 1, 1998 the date, and that Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain should be given until January 1 2003 to adapt to full competition, particularly in adjusting tariffs; countries with very small telephone networks could also have two years beyond 1998 to liberalise if they could justify it – and Belgium and Luxembourg want to be in that club; the idea that railways or electricity companies be allowed to sell services on their own networks to corporate or other closed user groups won support from only the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands and failed to get through; the ministers agreed that the Commission should report on telecommunications infrastructure and cable networks by January 1 1995.

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