COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
RECOMMENDATION No. R (99) 14
OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS TO MEMBER STATES
ON UNIVERSAL COMMUNITY SERVICE
CONCERNING NEW COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SERVICES
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 9 September 1999
at the 678th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage;
Recalling the commitment of the member states to the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and to entrust the supervision of its application to the European Court of Human Rights;
Reaffirming that freedom of expression and information is necessary for the social, economic, cultural and political development of every human being, and constitutes a condition for the harmonious progress of social and cultural groups, nations and the international community, as expressed in the 1982 Declaration on the Freedom of Expression and Information;
Stressing that the continued development of new communication and information services should serve to further the right of everyone to express, to seek, to receive and to impart information and ideas, for the benefit of every individual and the democratic culture of any society;
Welcoming this development as an important factor enabling all member states and everyone to participate in the establishment of a coherent information society throughout the European continent;
Referring to the Declaration and Action Plan of the 2nd Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Council of Europe of 11 October 1997, where the Heads of State and Government resolved to develop a European policy for the application of the new information technologies;
Referring to the declaration and resolutions on the information society adopted by the participating ministers at the 5th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy, which was held in Thessaloniki on 11 and 12 December 1997;
Convinced that new communication and information services will offer everyone new opportunities for access to information, education and culture;
Convinced also that the use of new communication and information services will facilitate and enhance the possibilities for everyone to participate in the circulation of information and communication across frontiers, so fostering international understanding and the mutual enrichment of cultures;
Convinced that the use of new communication and information services will facilitate the participation of everyone in public life, communication between individuals and public authorities, as well as the provision of public services;
Aware of the fact that many people in Europe do not have sufficient opportunities to have access to new communication and information services, and that the development of access at community level can be achieved in an easier way than at individual level;
Aware of the social, economic and technical differences which exist at national, regional and local levels for the development of new communication and information services;
Aware of the possible synergetic effects of co-operation between public authorities and the private sector for the benefit of users of new communication and information services;
Resolved to encourage the implementation of the principle of universal community service concerning new communication and information services, as defined in Resolution No. 1 of the 5th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy,
Recommends to the governments of member states:
1. to implement the principles appended to this recommendation, taking account of their respective national circumstances and international commitments;
2. to disseminate widely this recommendation and its appendix, where appropriate accompanied by a translation; and
3. to bring them in particular to the attention of public authorities, new communication and information industries and users.
Appendix to Recommendation No. R (99) 14
Guidelines for a European policy for the implementation of the principle
of universal community service concerning new communication and information services
Principle 1 - Access
1. Member states should foster the creation and maintenance of public access points providing access for all to a minimum set of communication and information services in accordance with the principle of universal community service.
This should include encouraging public administrations, educational institutions and private owners of access facilities to new communication and information services to enable the general public to use these facilities.
2. Member states should foster the provision of adequate and internationally connected networks for new communication and information services, and in particular their extension to areas with a low communication and information infrastructure.
3. Member states should foster the provision of adequate facilities for the access to new communication and information services by users requiring support.
Principle 2 - Content and services
1. Member states should encourage public authorities at central, regional and local levels to provide the general public through new communication and information services with the following basic content and services:
a.information of public concern;
b.information about these public authorities, their work and the way by which everyone can communicate with them via new communication and information services or through traditional means;
c.the opportunity to pursue administrative processes and actions between individuals and these public authorities such as the processing of individual requests and the issuing of public acts, unless national law requires the physical presence of the person concerned; and
d.general information necessary for the democratic process.
2. The services referred to in paragraph (1) should not replace traditional ways of communicating with public authorities, in writing or in person, as well as the provision of information by public authorities through traditional media and official publications.
3. Member states should encourage educational institutions to make their educational services available to the general public through new communication and information services.
4. Member states should encourage cultural institutions, such as libraries, museums and theatres, to provide services to the general public through new communication and information services.
Principle 3 - Information and training
1. Member states should promote information about the public access points referred to in Principle 1, the content and services which are accessible via these access points, as well as the means of and possible restrictions to such access.
2. Member states should encourage training for all in the use of the public access points referred to in Principle 1 as well as the services which are accessible via these access points, including as regards the understanding of the nature of these services and of the implications related to their use.
3. Member states should consider including education in new communication and information technologies and services in the curricula of schools as well as institutions for continuing or adult education.
Principle 4 - Financing the costs of universal community service
1. Member states should examine appropriate ways of financing the implementation of the principle of universal community service, such as by granting subsidies or tax incentives, mixed public and private funding, or private funding including sponsoring.
2. Member states should ensure that the provision of financial support and sponsoring does not lead to the exercise of any undue influence over the implementation of the principle of universal community service.
Principle 5 - Fair competition safeguards
Member states should ensure that fair competition between providers of new communication and information services is not distorted by the implementation of the principle of universal community service.
Principle 6 - Information to be provided to the Council of Europe
Member states should inform the Secretary General of the Council of Europe about the implementation of these principles with a view to their periodical evaluation and a possible amendment of them in the future, as well as in order to achieve a common and coherent European policy for the implementation of the principle of universal community service.