On November 22nd, The Daily Telegraph published an article “The battle to get Britain’s broadband through Brussels’ bureaucracy” in which assertions were made that a competition investigation by the European Commission was caused undue delay “thanks to European bureaucracy”.
The European Commissioner involved, Joaquín Almunia refutes the assertions made in the article and given that the journalist did not approach the Commission for comment in advance of publication, Mr Almunia sought a right to reply from The Daily Telegraph in the form of a letter to the letters page, which we submitted on November 23rd (as below). The Daily Telegraph finally published a shortened version of this on December 7th.
I refer to your article published on 22 November that implied a slow approval procedure by the European Commission of the Broadband UK (BDUK) scheme.
BDUK was notified to the Commission in January 2012 to check compliance with EU state aid rules. We asked the UK authorities for the information needed to carry out our assessment in February 2012.
Only after seven months did we receive a complete response from the UK in October and only at that point were we in a position to complete our analysis. This was done in a matter of weeks before the final decision was taken on 20 November 2012. During our scrutiny, we raised similar issues as the House of Lords in its July report. Some of these recommendations have been inserted in the design of the scheme to ensure a more pro-competitive outcome.
Although I did meet Secretary of State Maria Miller on 8 November at her request, we had started our internal adoption procedure well before this and the decision was taken on the date initially foreseen.
I believe politicians at all levels should do all they can to avoid red tape, but in this case Brussels bureaucrats worked faster than their London colleagues!
Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for competition
The situation was further clarified in an FT article of November 27th: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9ee184c2-38c6-11e2-bd13-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2DzHUbNoP