European Union and Western Balkans mobile operators to work together on steps, ought to start EU-WB roaming charges reduction soon
- 19 Oct 2022
Sarajevo/Brussels – The European Union (EU) and the Western Balkans (WB) mobile operators met today to discuss the Roadmap on lowering the roaming charges between the EU and our region, at the meeting organised by the European Commission. Olivér Várhelyi, EU Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner, Thierry Breton, EU Internal Market Commissioner, and Majlinda Bregu, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) addressed the meeting participants who concluded to continue the work on the steps that should lead to the start of the reduction of the data roaming charges between the EU and WB soon. The ultimate goal is the reduction of the roaming prices to those close to national level by 2027.
“We, the RCC, the European Commission, respective WB governments, mobile operators and regulatory agencies, have jointly followed a long journey in the process of reducing the roaming charges within the Western Balkans and after the introduction of roaming free in our region on 1 July 2021, we see tangible results. Although travel restrictions were applicable, we have noticed a substantial increase in all the indicators of roaming usage, due to roam-like-at home regime, in outgoing/incoming calls, sms and data. If we compare the first half of 2021 with the second half of the same year – or before and after the roaming free regime within WB, we notice an increase by 100% of WB roaming users, while data roaming consumption increased up to 460%. WB Roaming users made a total of 143 million minutes of outgoing calls in 2021 doubled compared to 2019. So, last year, once again together, we have intensely embarked on a joint endeavour with the European Commission and mobile operators on reduction of roaming charges between the EU and WB through an open, transparent, inclusive and participatory process of consultation, and we hope to see the first reduction of charges already in summer 2023,” said Majlinda Bregu at the meeting.
Through an ambitious set of policy reforms across WB economies combined with reduction of roaming charges between the EU and WB through self-regulation and commercial agreements among operators, the goal of the process is to bring the direct benefit for the citizens of the region and the EU, but also to improve the business environment in the Western Balkans.
“It is true that reducing roaming charges between the EU and WB is more complicated than roaming free in WB, but our governments are sending a very clear message on the importance they attach to the improvement of business environment - they are doing their part of share in this process. Furthermore, with RCC you have a reliable regional partner and presence of Commissioner Várhelyi and Commissioner Breton today reconfirm the political support EC gives to this process,” concluded Bregu.
The RCC, EC and mobile operators from the EU and WB met several times last and this year, ensuring sustainability and consistency of the process, addressing needs and challenges together. RCC is committed to maintain a more structured consultation process with the EU and WB mobile operators through the Advisory and Coordination Group that is set to be launched soon.