The globalisation of telecommunications networks and services has led to the enhancement of international cooperation in the field in recent decades (Cowhey 1999; Haas 1975; Krasner 1991; Ruggie 1975; Zacher 2002). However, little research has been carried out as to the evolution of the international institutions that deal with this, and particularly the role the European Union has played in this development (for treatment of the European telecommunications sphere, see Sandholtz 1993; Thatcher 2000, 2001). The principal aim of this article, in accordance with the aims of
this collection, is therefore to describe the performance of the EU in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The analysis of the EU’s performance in such an organisation thus provides a useful opportunity to reflect upon the role of the EU – and the perception of its role – in international institutions. Such an analysis also raises broader questions as to the effectiveness of current institutional arrangements in international telecommunications governance. This contribution focuses on the EU’s position within the ITU, and will not be able to stray into a detailed discussion on the position of the ITU in the global telecommunications environment. For the purposes of this paper, the EU comprises the institutions of the EU along with its member states as well as other associated organisations such as the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), which we shall see plays a crucial role. The focus of the EU’s activities in the ITU will relate to the period
1994-2010, which has seen relatively large changes in the perceived relevance of the ITU in managing the global telecommunications regime as well as a change in the structures of EU activity in the field. This period has seen changes in the way national and European regulators work. The contribution of the EU and the ITU to global policy discussions on telecommunications reform evolved remarkably in the period 1994-2010. This period started with a very strong support from the EU (notably the European Commission) towards a global, intergovernmental approach to managing technological change and the emergence of the ‘Information Society’. The European Commission provided support for, and hosted, a G7 Summit in Brussels on the topic in 1993, and was keen to work with the ITU on issues of Internet governance, through the ITU-driven Internet Ad Hoc Committee. The article argues that, over this period, the visibility of EU perfor-
mance in the ITU has shifted away from the EU institutions towards an ‘external’ institution, namely CEPT. Coordination of EU activity within CEPT has evolved to respond to this situation, as will be shown below. This article will first address the ITU as an institution, and will outline
its core activities to show the position it holds in the governance of global telecommunications. This will show that the role of the ITU on the global scene has shifted dramatically since its inception. Secondly, the article will go on to describe the EU’s role in telecommunications governance. It will subsequently address the EU’s reduction in activity in the ITU with respect to the criteria outlined in the introduction to this collection, and then try to provide some reasons for this behaviour.