By Arnout Nuijt
On the last day of the previous year an interesting bit of news floated around in the Low Countries, but it may have been lost in the loud bangs of the New Year’s Eve celebrations. According to Luc Willems, deputy secretary-general of the Benelux Union, the Benelux would like to see a single market for mobile telephony in the three countries. The Benelux in 2013 will study the possibilities for creating such a single market, without roaming fees. That is of course good news for consumers as well as businesses, and it could also serve as a test for a similar move to a single EU market.
Yes, it has been a nuisance for years when, traveling between Belgium and The Netherlands (or between any two given EU nations), you loose your mobile connection the very moment you are crossing the border. While you wait for the text message coming in from the local provider saying that you are now on their network, you may wonder what it actually means to live in a EU single market. Once you have crossed the border – which is an increasingly diminishing concept within the EU, especially in the case of the one between Holland and Belgium -, the cost of your phone calls will rise significantly, because telecom companies say you are “roaming”.
Wow, after decades of deepening European economic integration and years of an EU single market, the ups and downs of the Euro Zone and a plethora of other treaties, telecom providers are still free to charge their customers more once they cross a border? Yes, somehow they can and they are getting away with it all the time… But where the EU has apparently not been capable of bringing change and helping its citizens and businesses to bring down cost, the Benelux has now taken an initiative. The Benelux, the Benelux, you are saying, yeah, I have heard about it, but do they still exist? Yes, they do, and they may be making a comeback of sorts. Continue reading