Vote on electronic communications bill postponed

Ljubljana – The National Assembly did not vote on a bill on electronic communications, which is to transpose an EU directive, on Wednesday as the opposition filed a referendum motion, which now needs to be discussed first.

According to Digital Transformation Minister Mark Boris Andrijanič, the main goal of the bill is to transpose the EU directive on electronic communication into the Slovenian legislation.

The bill is also to encourage connectivity and the use of high-capacity networks across Slovenia, facilitate consumers’ switching between service providers, which would be free of charge, and ensure affordable broadband access to the internet, which would allow a wide range of services for all consumers, regardless of their location or income.

Meanwhile, the opposition voiced criticism that it enabled excluding of certain equipment makers from the market and encroached on the autonomy of the Agency for Communication Networks and Services.

Andrijančič stressed the bill should be passed as soon as possible, as Slovenia has been late in transposing the directive and faces penalty.

The European Commission initiated proceedings before the EU Court today against Slovenia and nine other countries that have not transposed EU rules on electronic communications yet.

Still, the bill was not put to a vote today, because the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), backed by the Social Democrats (SD), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the Left filed for a consultative referendum.

“Since the bill will not be able to be passed in the next 30 days because of the referendum announcement, Slovenia has lost the last chance to avoid the European Commission’s lawsuit and high penalties over delay in the transfer of the EU directive,” the Government Office for Digital Transformation said after the session.

The LMŠ had also filed amendments that would “at least partly create the impression that we are not restricting free business initiatives”, according to MP Jani Möderndorfer, but they were voted down. The minister said they ran contrary to EU guidelines.

EU countries were to transpose the EU directive by 21 December 2020. Those that have not, received the first warning in February 2021 and the second last September.

Apart from Slovenia, Spain, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden face proceedings.

After today’s decision by the Commission, a lawsuit is expected to be filed against Slovenia within 30 days. The country faces a fine of almost EUR 660,000 plus almost EUR 6,300 a day until the directive is transposed, the government’s office said today, adding the government would continue to strive for the passage of the bill as soon as possible.