EU roaming charges deal reached during Presidency of Latvia

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The European Union has agreed to scrap roaming charges for holidaymakers by mid-2017. A deal about this years-long project was reached on the last day of the Presidency.

The last meeting about cancelling mobile roaming charges lasted for some 12 hours. It was lead by Edmunds Beļskis of the Ministry of Transport.

He said that, having put the matter on the agenda in 2013, the European countries had not reached a compromise neither for the date when roaming charges are to be cancelled, nor about the transition period before the start of Latvia's EU Presidency.

Many smaller mobile phone operators dismissed the idea as a bureaucratic fantasy. Many more wanted a longer transition period.

Latvia's first proposition, which offered five call minutes, five text messages and five megabytes of mobile internet, was sharply criticized by Andrus Ansip, Vice President for the Digital Single Market on the European Commission.

"Open up your iPad, enter the PIN code, and if there's an automatic update you've lost 20 megabytes already [...]. However, your Presidency has gotten us closer to the solution," said Ansip in an interview to Latvian Radio in mid-June before a meeting of telecommunications ministers.

Although the proposal has been criticized for a number of ambiguous terms, such as 'fair use' and 'short-term stay', these are to be dealt with later. 

The second 'Digital Europe' deal Latvia hoped to strike during the Presidency is the Data Protection Directive. It is to be finalized within the bounds of the next Presidency, which was handed to Luxembourg on July.

The deal reached includes a compromise 'faster lane' of the internet, allowing service providers such as Google, Netflix and Amazon to pay wireless operators for faster users' access to services.

This year operators can still surcharge 19 cents per minute of calls, 5 cents for incoming calls, 6 cents per text message, and 20 cents per megabyte of data.

These charges will be 5 cents for calls, 2 cents per text, 5 cents per megabyte of data starting from April 2016, and will be completely phased out in mid-2017.

Latvia's EU Presidency ended on June 30.

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