China’s Corporate Image in Europe

Chinese Credibility Gap

China’s corporations and their business takeovers have instigated political fear in both the USA and the EU. The USA started banning several Chinese products from the American market under alleged security concerns. So despite adherence to EU standards and a strong commitment to Europe, Huawei was starting to have a credibility problem in the EU as well. The main concern was over the cyber security of Huawei products in Europe, and the risk posed to personal information and data. This would damage Huawei’s reputation and hamper business development in Europe. Huawei reached out to Alber & Geiger to mitigate concerns and build support in Europe.

Fend Off Reputation Damage

"Strategic, accessible and determined in promoting our legislative agenda"
Tony Graziano- Vice-President, European Public Affairs and Communications Office, Huawei
Alber & Geiger targeted key Members of the European Parliament in all relevant committees and across the political spectrum, to emphasize Huawei’s commitment to Europe, adherence to EU standards and contribution to the European economy through leading products and services, jobs creation and investments in research and development. The goal was to show to the EU law makers that there was no Chinese government involvement in Huawei’s business strategies, let alone any cyber security issue with Huawei’s devices.

In that context we also established an alternate strategy with the European Commission and related EU agencies to show that Huawei is fully integrated in the EU market and successful for business reasons only. By doing so, we advanced Huawei’s business interests in Europe.

Greece and the European Central Bank

Restoring investor confidence

Early in 2016 the European Central Bank’s (ECB) single supervisory mechanism decided to carry out its first audit of Greece’s four systemic banks since it was set up in 2013. Greece’s leading bank turned to Alber & Geiger for help amid shareholder complaints over irregularities during the last round of capital raising. Assistance was required to ensure a standard and short regulatory scrutiny that would have not weakened further the image and investor confidence in the bank and its management.

Pressing EU banking regulators

Alber & Geiger approached directly the European banking regulators. We emphasized the importance of having a short investigation that would not harm the image of the bank and its management. Our team pressed the European Commission to explain to the European banking regulators that the respective departments in the European Commission had cleared the alleged irregularities, which were now the focus of their investigation.

ag-wins-map-financial-crisisA&G prepared a clear and concise message addressed to EU and German lawmakers and administrations that put the spotlight on the bureaucratic approach of the European banking regulators and the implications of a lengthy investigation on the bank itself, the Greek banking sector in general and ultimately on EU taxpayers’ money. We took the message to all the lawmakers seating in the relevant committees in the German Bundestag and European Parliament to highlight our concerns with the reasons that led to the investigation in the first place and the manner how it was being carried out. Alber & Geiger underlined also the failure to look at the big picture at a time when the Greek and European financial sector desperately needed confidence. We pressed lawmakers and officials in Germany and Europe to force the European banking regulators to commit to a short investigation and put the emphasis on stability. Failure to do so would have led to economic and social instability and would have required more EU taxpayers’ money to the rescue.

Maintaining financial and social stability

Six months into the mandate, the media campaign against our client and repeated calls against its management came to a halt. We helped facilitate the exchange of views between our client and the European banking regulators at the highest political level. By doing so, we helped prevent another wave of economic instability in Greece’s largest systemic bank.

Azerbaijan and Human Rights

Alber & Geiger’s representation secures release of political prisoners

They helped us through a sensitive period navigating the political landscape in Europe.
Farhad Aliyev- Former Minister of Economic Development, Republic of Azerbaijan
On October 14, 2013, the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, signed a pardon decree to free around 134 prisoners. Among them, Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were also finally released from prison, following an intensive lobbying campaign in Brussels and Washington DC. The European Commission and US government welcomed the pardon decree and “were encouraged by the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev” while at the same time “urging the Azerbaijani authorities to free more activists and journalists”. Alber & Geiger was central to their pardon and release. By combining our political and legal expertise, we reinvigorated the campaign. Clear, innovative and tailored messages were sent across several jurisdictions to key players. Good management and immaculate coordination ensured the success that culminated with their release from prison.

Promoting human rights through EU cooperation

Farhad Aliyev, the Former Minister of Economic Development in Azerbaijan, and his brother Rafig Aliyev, the former CEO of Azpetrol, were arrested and detained on the eve of parliamentary elections in October 2005, on charges of attempting a coup d’état. They were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that their arrests were illegal. Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were denied rights of due process, a fair trial, adequate medical care and proper legal counsel. European and international institutions, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as well as renowned human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), identified injustices in their cases. International recognition of the matter and the ECHR judgments did not ensure the hoped outcome. Farhad and Rafig Aliyev remained imprisoned in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani authorities were not willing to comply with the ECHR judgments and ignored calls for their release. Through a variety of channels and tactics, they kept refusing that Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were political prisoners. Instead, Azerbaijani authorities repeated the charges of embezzlement and corruption.

Was there an additional hurdle? Europe needed to negotiate with Azerbaijan on energy. Azerbaijan was fundamental to end Europe’s over-reliance on Russian energy. With the EU political climate eager to deal with Azerbaijan, it was easy to close an eye on human rights. It also made sense to lay low on a matter that was so closely connected with the government. Our client’s pleas could have been ignored or moved down the agenda since it was not a clear-cut case of political prisoners and a matter that had received attention in the past. With the odds stacked against Farhad and Rafig Aliyev, Alber & Geiger went to work planning and executing a campaign that put the focus on making the case for Farhad and Rafig Aliyev, among numerous and competing interests and considerations. This helped secure what initially seemed impossible.

Clients at the top of the political agenda

Alber & Geiger was mandated to help Farhad and Rafig Aliyev formally organize and raise the visibility of their matter in a more substantive and sustained effort before the EU institutions and Member States governments. The ultimate objective was, of course, their release from prison.

Our message was aimed at dealing with all the concerns and competing interests. Alber & Geiger focused on restoring the image of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. It highlighted Farhad’s record in government, particularly the reforms he undertook to bring Azerbaijan closer to Western democracy. Similarly, we shed light on Rafig’s achievements as a businessman in Azerbaijan. It also focused on making Farhad and Rafig classic cases of political prisoners. Any concerns about corruption and embezzlement were mitigated. Additionally, it clearly shed light on all the human rights violations against Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. And, finally, it called for the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev based on the existing cooperation mechanisms.

Legal and political arguments for maximum impact

ag-wins-map-azerbaijanOur strategy exposed the role that Farhad’s pro-Western values played in his imprisonment. We turned Farhad and Rafig Aliyev into emblematic cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Several messages were delivered in a timely and efficient manner making the legal and political case for their release. The messages were tailored and adapted according to the context on which they were delivered.

Armed with the compelling facts and arguments, Alber & Geiger crafted a highly targeting advocacy campaign to inform and shape the opinions of key decision-makers in Brussels and Strasbourg. That effort was reinforced and amplified by going after the individual Member States, international specialised NGOs and various media outlets.

Alber & Geiger’s approach, understanding of the EU cooperation with Azerbaijan and legal expertise made an unlikely shift that ultimately put the focus on our clients and the spotlight on Azerbaijan’s human rights record.

Targeting The Right Audience

Our political lobbying on behalf of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev secured their release. Our messages on the evidence, reputation of the clients and the responsibility of the EU and Council of Europe to make their case emblematic and demand their release during the negotiations with Azerbaijan, reached all the important decision-makers. Many Members of the European Parliament raised concern about their imprisonment, highlighted Farhad’s record in government and urged the European Commission to call for their release.

The campaign did more than just secure the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev from prison. It also helped restore their image before the EU institutions and facilitate their return to the business undertakings.

Release ensured, image restored 

Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were released from prison on October 14, 2013. This was done through the prominent placement of their cases at the centre of the human rights discussions and bilateral negotiations, as well as the preparation and distribution of several policy papers. Alber & Geiger arranged for numerous parliamentary questions across the political spectrum addressed to the EU executive on the cases of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. The President of the European Parliament wrote an appeal letter to the Azerbaijani President calling for the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. And finally, the European Parliament passed a resolution “on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan”, which included Farhad and Rafig Aliyev as prominent cases.

It was our team’s unique combination of sound legal arguments and political lobbying that enabled us to achieve the desired result for Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. After our relentless lobbying work, the Aliyev brothers were both released. In Mr Farhad Aliyev’s words, „Alber & Geiger helped us through a sensitive period navigating the political landscape in Europe”.

Morocco and the Western Sahara

Alber & Geiger’s lobbying strengthens EU – Morocco relations

Kingdom of Morocco
Kingdom of Morocco
Alber & Geiger has played a key role in strengthening the bilateral relations. What started as lobbying to ease the renewal of two bilateral cooperation instruments quickly transformed into a political lobbying to eliminate the political impasse. Alber & Geiger helped improve Morocco’s strategic position in relation to Europe. Former Commissioner Füle acknowledged the EU-Morocco relation as the “terms of reference” in the southern neighbourhood.

The dispute that threatened bilateral relations

Valuable EU support and advise.
H.E. Menouar Alem- Ambassador to the EU, Kingdom of Morocco
Alber & Geiger had to emphasize to the European institutions the strategic importance of Morocco in the southern neighbourhood. The progress made between the EU and Morocco over the last two decades was truly impressive. The Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement – the two contentious areas – needed to build on that progress instead of compromising it.

The EU-Morocco relationship is a ‘success-story’ in the region.
Stefan Füle- Former EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Morocco had an image problem with regard to Western Sahara. It was viewed as the occupier of Western Sahara that was unscrupulously using the natural resources of the invaded territory to the disadvantage of the Saharawi people. For this reason, several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had demanded that the EU use the political clout and resources to bring the Agriculture Agreement and the Fisheries Partnership Agreement to an end with Morocco. This movement culminated in a resolution on the “Situation in the Western Sahara,” condemning the actions of the Kingdom of Morocco in the region. This was not the sort of image Morocco wanted to have in the EU.

Agriculture and fisheries agreements at risk 

EU/Morocco and the Western Sahara: renewal of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership AgreementThe goal of our lobbying was simple: renewal of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement to stress that the EU-Morocco cooperation instruments could not be jeopardised by political interests.

Our message was complete with regard to every detail. It made the case to put the process back on track for the approval of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement. It emphasized the benefits of the two agreements for the actual integration of Morocco into the EU economic and social area. It eliminated any concern about the funds’ end receivers by providing factual evidence that the income generated was being used to the advantage of the Saharawi people. And, finally, it stressed Morocco’s strategic importance in the region and made the case for finding a long and lasting international solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

The necessary message to the relevant decision-makers

ag-wins-map-moroccoOur strategy made use of several dynamics over the course of the representation. Alber & Geiger compiled and delivered a series of detailed, tailor made messages on specific technical issues regarding the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement. Detailed fisheries, agricultural and environmental arguments were advanced with the relevant European Commission and Council officials, as well as MEPs in the involved Committees, to tackle all the concerns of a technical nature.

The co-ordinated multi-faceted approach also involved an appeal to specific Member States and organisational interests in fishing and agriculture sector. These parties were encouraged to help improve the media image of the agreement.

Alber & Geiger’s analytical competence allowed it to create an effective narrative for the agreements legality under public international law. This argument was subsumed into our broader narrative that the agreement would enhance the region’s stability in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and benefit the local population.

Partnerships renewed, regional status elevated

EU/Morocco and the Western Sahara: renewal of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership AgreementBy any measure, the work on behalf of Morocco was a success. Our messages about the benefits of the agreements, the strategic importance of the EU-Morocco relations, and the need to find a lasting solution to the Western Sahara conflict with the international community, reached all the key decision makers. Several MEPs decided to speak out in support of the agreements and stress Morocco’s vital role in the region.

Our lobbying with the EU institutions did more than pave the way for the approval of the Agriculture Agreement and the Fisheries Partnership Agreement. Alber & Geiger had to tread lightly and optimise all its knowledge, skills and multi-professional techniques to not only save the talks, but also reinforce Morocco’s relations with all the EU institutions, including the European Parliament.

Political Opposition in Iran

Promoting the programme and leadership of opposition parties

Council for a Democratic Iran (CDI)
Council for a Democratic Iran (CDI)
We were hired by the Council for a Democratic Iran (CDI) to raise political awareness and build support for the CDI before the EU. The hurdle here was to promote the very specific foreign policy position of the CDI, with the Member States governments, with conflicting positions on Iran. The subtle CDI policy locus fell in between confrontation and accommodation. This had to be done in a universal, politically neutral manner.

Connecting with the relevant stakeholders

ag-wins-map-iranThe strategy relied on a data collection and dissemination process based on our distinct EU lobbying infrastructure. We gathered a detailed pool of information from a holistic range of institutional, local, NGO and inter-governmental sources. Subsequently our team translated the data to be compatible with the policy structures of the EU institutions. We tailored the message to different audience catchments of Member States. Overall the strategy outlined an accurate overview of the scale of repression and human rights violations in Iran. Concurrently it promoted positive transnational tools to tangibly shape policy accordingly.

Ensuring better communication and awareness

CDI’s message was successfully transplanted into the divergent attitudes of the EU Member States and EU institutions. We helped CDI contribute to greater coherence in the perception of Iranian politics and policies. Ultimately we prevented the subtleties of diplomacy from concealing the human rights violations in Iran. This created a context for more constructive and bold communications from media outlets and government officials with respect to the repressive actions.

Slot Machines and Gambling Bans

Protecting gaming industry via EU law

Gauselmann Group
Gauselmann Group
The Gauselmann Group, one of the largest producers and operators of games of chance in Europe, called on Alber & Geiger when faced with a number of threatening gambling regulations in several Member States – the impact of which would have been devastating. Alber & Geiger had to convince the European Commission to make a counterintuitive political risk in confronting a powerful Member State, Germany. The precariousness of EU competence over gambling law, when compared to the centuries of incrementally developed German gambling norms, would have stalled most legal professionals. We had to fill in the gaps of the law and concurrently convince the European Commission that our interpretation would stand up to CJEU scrutiny. Also, on behalf of the Gauselmann Group, we were called upon to limit and remove the effects of the legislation on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering or terrorist financing on legitimate gambling activity. In addition, we were tasked with similar national Member States’ gambling laws and their potential breach of EU law, namely in Austria, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

EU competence and national gambling laws

ag-wins-map-gambling-industryGiven the limited scope of directly ascertainable EU competence, the strategy had to delve deeply into the substantive legal framework underlying EU competence and gambling law. It employed an abstracted analytical formula to show that the various regulations were legally incoherent. It demonstrated that the laws of the Member States contradicted their own main goals on a substantive level. It utilized the jurisprudential architecture of the CJEU in lieu of their crystallization. The multifaceted strategy also incorporated an economic dimension. It showed the long-term macro-consequences of the legal uncertainty and incoherence, caused by the indefinite prolonging of the ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ with Germany. Concurrently, the same technique allowed us to demonstrate that the money laundering directive could not arbitrarily encompass all the gambling operators without distinction of risk volume and activity. On both front we showed that private gambling halls and gambling machines should not be singled out.

Upholding the internal market rules

Sophisticated EU Lobbyists
Meik Sellenriek- CFO & Managing Director at Merkur Casinos, Gauselmann Group
Ultimately, we managed to convince the European Commission to act. Its omission to launch infringement proceedings had been rebuked. Alber & Geiger was able to safeguard fundamental liberties and freedoms by bringing EU instruments into a new field and challenging archaic but powerful structures. We were also able to hold the scope of the money laundering directive back, establishing a distinction between casinos and other gambling operators. The fluidity of Alber & Geiger’s grasp of CJEU methodology and its jurisprudential entrepreneurship allowed it to reconstitute a fair balance in the internal market.

Visas for Political Refugees

Navigating the complex EU and UK immigration rules

Alber & Geiger was tasked with supporting entry into the EU for clients whose families suffered intimidation and coercion in their respective home countries.
This would require us to obtain student visas for the UK. Their applications to leading UK universities had failed before. In a short space of time we had to support their applications. We had to deal with the specific entities and their own distinct decision making processes. This had to be done with political sensitivity, and we had to rely on the integrity of the system to ensure that political influences did not have a bearing on their entry into the UK.

University acceptance to also escape intimidation

ag-wins-map-educationThe strategy required an expedient understanding of the nooks and crannies inside the UK education system. It used careful neutral language to ensure that their applications were not misconstrued. It relied on the basis of our firm’s intrinsic aptitudes. We worked to break down and analyse the discretionary selection criteria of each university. The documents thoroughly assimilated the ‘criteria language’ of the universities into their narrative. In this case we had to effectively co-ordinate through the network of statutory instruments and satisfy the executive concerns they were designed to address.

Safe arrival and admission

The result was the safe arrival of the families into the UK and their admission into top tier universities. The transferable nature of our skills is constantly being tested by the ever changing institutional framework of Europe.

Sports Betting in Romania

Gaming monopolies a case for EU law

Our client, Stanleybet, had a unique cross boarder business model. In 2008, the company launched the Fair Play For Sports Betting campaign, calling for fair access to all European markets for all EU-based sports betting operators. However, it was hampered by monopolistic Romanian gambling laws, which prevented it from bringing the full benefits of its cross border business model to the country. The challenge was to get the post-Communist Romanian sports law infrastructure in line with EU law. It required us to navigate through a static municipal framework that was entrenched and influential. We also had the added complication of articulating the narrative in an entirely new area of EU law, where the Commission’s competence was precarious.

The legal case and the political message

ag-wins-map-sportsbettingThe strategy was based on the landmark Gambelli judgement. In that court case, our Chairman had been Attorney General. His Opinion had established an important framework for determining the validity on limitations to cross border gambling. Concurrently, the strategy had to contextualize our inter-institutional communication according the Romanian sports law infrastructure. It utilized the fact that Stanleybet had based its cross border business model on the Gambelli and Placanica rulings. Essentially, we were able to demonstrate to the European Commission that Stanleybet was a model of the type of economic activity, which it had a duty to protect. The expertise of our personal and the direct involvement in this particular area of law proved to be instrumental and indispensable.

Ensuring EU law compliance

Sharp analysis, fast delivery
Konstantinos Maragkakis- Head of Communications, Stanleybet
Stanleybet now has a lucrative and successful operation in Romania, which benefits consumers. Thanks to our efforts, the EU Commission forced the Romanian state to comply with these very recent extensions to EU competence. It was ultimately by virtue of our goodwill in the field of gambling law and our ability to co-ordinate the relevant playmakers that helped defuse a politically sensitive situation and create compliance. In the broader spectrum, we once again were able to contribute to our ongoing campaign to create fair, open and ethical gambling practices throughout the EU.

Chinese Imports to Europe

Safeguarding the interests of Chinese industry in Europe

When two giants meet there can be accidents. The miscommunication between Brussels and Beijing has become costly. The pace of trade has been too fast for institutions to absorb. Alber & Geiger is providing client support strategies to stop this loss. Alber & Geiger has continued to enjoy success in its project of building trust between the European and Chinese markets. In doing so, we have given our clients long-term, sustainable economic results.

Trade war tremors

Meaningful results in an expeditious manner.
Nanette Lockwood- Director Government Affairs, Solutia Inc
At the start of the millennium the Peoples Republic of China faced great scrutiny. There was strong international sentiment that China was responsible for breaching transnational anti-dumping norms. This international consensus threatened to grossly undermine trade between China and the West. It imposed great costs on competitive multinational entities. By December 2006 the European Commission had initiated several huge anti–dumping proceedings against China bringing the EU and China to the brink of a trade war. One of those cases concerned Chinese polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) imports. The Commission had launched an anti-dumping investigation on the PVA worth more than USD 33 million. It had heavily invested, in its conclusion that China was responsible for unlawful dumping. Similar pressure was coming from the USA. Solutia, a US Fortune 500 company and Monsanto spin-off, was in need of PVA to produce Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB), a material used in the glass, construction and auto industries. It sought Alber & Geiger’s help to address this substantial threat to its profitability, to its shareholders and to its position on the global market.

Bridging the differences

Chinese-imports-to-EuropeThe challenge entailed a need to understand the scientific political economy, which underlay the PVA market in China. We had to find out how this interacted with the European Commission’s approach to trade and competition law. Alber & Geiger was challenged with a global political consensus that included the EU and the US. Persuading the trade and competition law experts in the European Commission to completely reconsider the conclusions that they came to after their expensive investigation. We also only had five month’s notice. The multi-disciplinary scope of this mandate required new depth of advocacy. Alber & Geiger would need to produce a narrative that included a sophisticated understanding of the Chinese economy at that particular moment in the business cycle. It also called on us to have knowledge of the PVA chemical components and those of other materials in markets concerned. Simultaneously, we needed to conduct our political strategy in a way that did not further harm investor confidence for our clients.

Raising all the important questions

Chinese-imports-to-EuropeThe message was engineered to achieve an enhanced political communications channel between the EU institutional framework and Chinese industry and government, demonstrating the possible trade war consequences the EU was facing. It showed that there was a lapse in communication between the European economic mindset and that of economic entities with decades of experience in China. It demonstrated the relatively limited and only slightly increasing market share of the dumped imports from mainland China. It put forward that the dumping was a natural consequence of China’s macro-economic situation and production pressures. It showed that other market factors had contributed to the EU economic injury. It put forward that the Commission had not shown a causal link between the detriments suffered by the EU market and dumped imports from mainland China. Moreover, it cast doubt on the way the Commission had defined the market of PVA in light of the broader range of uses of the PVA. Most importantly, it encouraged a better culture of empathy between the Commission and the East Asian economic climate.

Making local arguments part Of EU economic policy

ag-wins-map-chinaOur strategy has laid a concrete groundwork for the long term reconciliation of the European Commission’s economic policy, and good faith public and private activity coming from the Chinese market. It was a multi-faced approach that combined law, economics and science into a technical adversarial context. In this regard, we deployed the signature cross-disciplinary advocacy that makes our firm unique. It showed that the trade dynamics were wider than those considered by the Commission’s narrow albeit costly investigation. It framed a fundamentally different methodological approach that considered these dynamics. Communications were dispatched at the right times on the business calendar to reshape the Commission’s mindset at appropriate phases. It substantiated that the market for PVA had not been properly demarcated. At the same time, it brought to the Commission’s attention the reality that Chinese producers had little or no excess capacity and focused on their huge fast growing domestic market, on elsewhere in Asia as well as on Europe where demand far outstrips production. The nature of the Chinese domestic market put downward price pressure on the PVA. This was a key reason for the price difference that the euro-centric approach of the Commission did not account for.

Paving the way for Chinese industry representation in Europe

Chinese-imports-to-EuropeThe impact of our efforts was to help the European Commission build a better working relationship with the Chinese business community and with multi-national firms working in China. We also raised awareness of the costs, market pressures and challenges facing them and how these change in diverse domestic and foreign markets. It was the start of our ongoing initiative to create a paradigm shift in the European Commission’s approach that will benefit our Chinese clients. We will continue to guide this shift for a broad range of transcontinental industries based in China, to fulfill the ongoing necessity of keeping communication levels up to par with economic progress.

Revision of the decision

Chinese-imports-to-EuropeAlber & Geiger’s lobbying activity lead to the Commission revising its preliminary tariff decision. We were able to successfully get the Commission to completely understand Solutia’s position and the Chinese situation in general. This success was achieved despite the heavy political animosity from the US and the EU against the PVA export industry in China. We were able to steer the Commission into making a complete U-turn from its entrenched position. This success was due to the years spent developing the cross-disciplinary adversarial mechanics of our firm. It is the result of the unique knowledge and skills infrastructure. That includes everything from the composition of the staff, the type of clients we have taken on and the knowledge accrued from our high profile mandates. This infrastructure is being increasingly orientated towards the multi-jurisdictional trade dynamics between the EU and China.

Telecoms Regulation in Bulgaria

Effectively advocating on behalf of telecom operators

Until recently the Bulgarian telecommunication industry was in poor shape. Its telecom termination rates were the highest in Europe despite the comparatively low average income in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian telecom regulator, the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC), determined mobile termination rates in an arbitrary and disproportionate way. Vivacom, the former telecom monopolist, sought Alber & Geiger’s help in tackling the CRC. Its regulatory influence in Bulgaria was significant. The challenge was compounded by the limited availability of effective domestic tools to review potentially arbitrary or unfair decisions. Concurrently the firm had been tasked with addressing the problem of illegal cables in Bulgaria. The Commission’s position was that this issue ought to be handled solely at national level. However, the Bulgarian state had been very hands off with respect to the deteriorating situation of illegal cables.

Addressing national telecoms regulations through EU intervention

ag-wins-map-sofia-brusselsThe strategy adopted, intended to show how broad ranging Treaty obligations should be translated into government actions. It had a strong EU public law and policy element, with consumer protection at the forefront. It brought EU law into a practical abstraction to suggest how its underlying values might be manifested in the public decision-making in Bulgaria. It helped Bulgaria understand and implement its EU law obligations. It enhanced the notions of fairness and proportionality in the civic realm. It used sophisticated fact-finding and law and economics analysis, to outline where subsidiarity pointed to, regarding the illegal cables.

Meeting the objectives

Strategic and beneficial solutions
Bernard Moscheni- Chief Executive Officer, Vivacom
The outcome of this mandate was a significant improvement in Bulgarian telecommunications services. Alber & Geiger’s lobbying activity resulted in the European Commission asking CRC not to discriminate when setting the level of termination rates between fixed and mobile networks. CRC significantly lowered Bulgaria’s termination rates to the benefit of consumers. Equally the EU Commission came on board with us to address the issue of illegal cables. It eventually began exerting pressure on Bulgaria, demanding their immediate removal. A remarkable process of removals is now underway. Ultimately Vivacom has now been put in a position where it is better able to serve the public.