The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), the legislative update of the telecoms rules of the Union, is on its way to being voted by the European Parliament before the Council of the European Union gives its opinion on the text.
How can the EECC improve the 112 service? What can it bring to European citizens and visitors?
To answer these questions, Benoit Vivier, EENA Advocacy Officer, went on a mission to discuss with key political figures and see what they think about the opportunities the EECC can bring for public safety.
In this issue of the EENA interview series, Benoit met with Mrs. Marlene Mizzi, Maltese Member of the European Parliament (MEP) to learn more about her views on European developments. BV: Malta is one of the main touristic destinations in Europe. What can the EU do to contribute to the better protection of visitors?
The EU can play a fundamental role in helping Member States advance the national emergency services
with current technological possibilities offered by the digital industry.
MM: The 112 initiative is one of the greatest achievements of the union and deserves all the support it can get from member states and from the EU. This instrument is fundamental to the protection and well-being of people and their property. 112 allows every person in a distressed situation to reach any of the main emergency services through a single call number throughout the whole of the EU. Having a better funded and more efficient 112 service is of great benefit not only to visitors in different Member States, but also to their citizens.
The advancement of the 112 emergency number is technologically and financially easy and cheap to implement at a national level and yet data has constantly shown a dissatisfactory state of play, including low awareness and different level of technological progress in different Member States. The European Union can therefore play a fundamental role in facilitating the functioning of 112 and in helping Member States advance the national emergency services with the current technological possibilities offered by the digital industry.
Another important contribution is obviously raising awareness of the 112 number as the common European emergency number. The benefit is that people will only know one number for any EU state. This can save precious time in the unfortunate scenario of someone needing to dial 112, especially when they travel and visit other countries which, more often than not, means they are not aware of the many different national emergency numbers.
As S&D shadow rapporteur on the Code, I hope the new rules will adequately address existing barriers,
bringing an environment where citizens and visitors are even safer.
BV: During the last months, the European Electronic Communications Code is one of the main topics of discussion in Brussels. You are the S&D Shadow Rapporteur working on the part that includes the 112 service. What do you envision that this legislation will bring to Europeans?
MM: An efficient 112 system should be able to ensure that callers in urgent need are located immediately so that the necessary assistance can be arranged quickly and effectively. However, the reality is somewhat different. Rescue services are often unable to ascertain the exact callers' location, and at the same time callers are not always able to explain exactly where they are. This contributes to delayed rescue interventions and is a significant obstacle to helping people in a timely manner. And we need to think of other obstacles as well: often people with disabilities or people who do not speak the language of the country they are visiting, have problems in effectively using the emergency number. We need to address all these issues.
As an S&D shadow rapporteur on the Code for the IMCO Committee, I hope that the new rules will adequately address those existing barriers, bringing an environment where citizens and visitors are even safer. For this reason, the Code should make sure that emergency calls can be answered in several EU-languages and that it can be accessible to all people, including to persons with disabilities.
The Code should also ensure that callers’ location accuracy is improved and, to add to this, it should be used as an opportunity to introduce new concepts and ideas, such as a new public warning system for citizens that countries can use in case of major emergencies and disasters. Imagine if in a large emergency, all member-states had the ability to inform their citizens in a modern way of what is happening and what people should do to remain safe. However, I am a bit disappointed that there was not enough political will to address sufficiently the link between new digital communication technologies and services and accessing the 112 emergency number in the future.
Being a member of the negotiating team on the roaming legislation, I am particularly proud that
the end of the roaming charges came during my country’s presidency.
BV: Malta held the Presidency of the EU for the first semester of 2017. What are your main take-aways from these 6 months?
MM: Having the EU presidency for the first time is always challenging for small country, like Malta, but holding the presidency during such turbulent times in Europe, with BREXIT negotiations, migration and unemployment crisis, made it more deciding. Despite the challenges, Malta has proven that it can punch above its weight and deliver its goals in the interest of Europe and its citizens. The Maltese Presidency worked on different initiatives and took concrete steps on various important matters negotiating deals to push through legislation in dozens of policy areas, including the digital single market, economy and employment. However, being a member of the negotiating team on the roaming legislation, I am particularly proud that the end of the roaming charges came during my country’s presidency. This was the end of a very long battle that started almost 10 years ago and the Maltese presidency managed to make this a reality for all Europeans. Malta also brought to the finish line the portability of online content, cooperation among consumer protection bodies and free public Wi-Fi. In the six months of the presidency Malta showed that a small country can handle the onerous role of Council Presidency with efficiency and effectiveness.