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Poland annuls 5G auction, moves to dismiss UKE head

21 May 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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Poland is a step closer to dismissing the head of its telecommunications regulator under the guise of anti-crisis legislation drafted to tackle Covid-19.

The proposals – which earlier this month moved EU commissioner Thierry Breton to write to Poland’s Ministry of Digitalisation – were approved by the lower chamber of the Polish parliament on Monday.

The development further strained relations between the Ministry of Digitalisation and the Office of Electronic Communication (UKE), which soured after 5G spectrum auctions, due to take place in April were delayed, also due to Coronavirus.

At the time, the chair of UKE said cancellation would create “legal uncertainty”, but on 20 May UKE confirmed it had initiated proceedings to annul the auction for 3.6GHz band spectrum.

Europe’s highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union, ruled two weeks ago that dismissing the president of a national regulatory authority, before the end of their term, is an infringement of EU law.

The position of president of UKE is currently held by Marcin Cichy, who previously headed UKE’s regulatory projects for the wholesale MTR and SMS MT markets and for the implementation of the roaming Eurotariff in Poland.

As the former strategy and telecommunications market analysis director, he has also been responsible for ICT analytics and regulatory strategy under the former heads of UKE.

Under the guise of anti-crisis legislation necessary to contain the global Covid-19 pandemic, the changes would result in Cichy’s dismissal and see him replaced by a candidate approved by the upper houses of parliament. This would shorten his term by 18 months.

The new law will be sent for final approval to Poland's president and, once signed, Cichy could be dismissed in as little as two weeks.

Poland’s conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has previously come head to head with the EU over judicial reforms, refugees, and climate change. However, Brussels maintains that the independence of the national telecommunications regulators is a main principle of EU law.