Romania is organizing, for the first time, the Conference of Plenipotentiaries of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – PP22 (https://pp22.itu.int/en/). The event will take place between September 26 and October 14, at the Palace of the Parliament, and will bring together over 3,000 delegates from 193 countries. Vlad Stoica, the president of the National Authority for Communications Administration and Regulation (ANCOM), the main organizer of the event, told us more about what will happen in Bucharest in the next three weeks.
Reporter: The Conference of Plenipotentiaries of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – PP22 is the biggest event that Romania has ever hosted?
Vlad Stoica: The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference is a large-scale event, which will take place at the Parliament Palace, where more than 3000 people from 193 countries will participate. All the important hops were passed through a sustained effort of the state, collaborating very well with the other institutions.
I think it is the biggest event organized by Romania in the last 30 years, which lasts three weeks.
The event itself, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, will only be in Bucharest, at the Parliament.
The Ministry of Tourism organized several trips for the delegates outside of Bucharest, to promote Romania. People sign up and participate if they want. Excursions will take place in Bran, Salina Prahova and Peleș Castle. For its part, the Ministry of Culture organizes several events at the Romanian Opera.
We are trying to promote the interests of Romania and ourselves, as a country, in this way. Because, frankly, we have something to offer.
Reporter: What are the main topics that will be addressed during the Conference?
Vlad Stoica: First of all, technical resolutions will be adopted on the fields of activity of the ITU – communications, satellites, cyber security, artificial intelligence..
Also, elections will be held. At each conference, organized every four years, in which all countries participate, the leadership of the ITU is elected. There are elections for the position of Secretary General, who is the supreme leader of the ITU, Deputy Secretary General and the three directors of the three main directions of the ITU.
Elections will begin next week, Thursday, September 29. It’s an open election. Secret voting is done, the votes are counted at the end and the winners are decided. There is the possibility that in some situations, where there are several candidates, there will be two rounds of voting.
For the position of Secretary General, a representative of the United States of America and a representative of the Russian Federation submitted their candidacies, respectively Doreen Bogdan Martin from the USA and Rashid Ismailov from the Russian Federation.
Reporter: How do you see Russia’s candidacy, in the context of the invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia?
Vlad Stoica: The United Nations is an organization that includes all the countries of the world. I don’t make Romania’s foreign policy and I don’t set the UN rules. Each country that is part of the United Nations has rights and obligations, so each country has the opportunity to apply. We will see who will emerge victorious in the election.
Regarding the Russian delegation in Romania, we do not deal with this aspect, but our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Whoever applies for visas goes through the verification filter assumed by our country. I don’t know what the details are, it is strictly an attribute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The delegation of the Russian Federation is included in the list of participants.
Reporter: Has the conflict in Ukraine changed the objectives of the ITU for the coming years?
Vlad Stoica: No. ITU is a technical institution, which deals with the area of communications, satellites, regulations in the field.
The UN is an eminently political organization in a sense, defending human rights. I know that, at the level of the United Nations, some positions have been taken, but those are strictly UN positions.
We, as a country, are part of NATO and the European Union. The decisions that were taken by Romania regarding the two alliances of which we are a part apply to us as well, because we agreed to them.
We are hosting the ITU for three weeks, it’s their event, not ours. We are trying to promote our interests as a country, a place in the Council and impose our point of view on the resolutions that will be adopted for the next four years.
Reporter: Which are the institutions you collaborated with for this event?
Vlad Stoica: Organizationally, we worked both with the Parliament, the Senate, and the Chamber of Deputies – they made the conference rooms available to us, they arranged them.
The Ministry of Culture takes care of the events that Romania offers within the Conference, and the Ministry of Tourism takes care of the promotion of Romania. We also collaborate with STS on the communications side, to ensure that everything is perfect from the point of view of communications security, cyber attacks. The SPP takes care of the safety of the delegates, their monitoring, in the sense that everyone knows where they are going and what they have to do.
Reporter: How many delegates are attending the event?
Vlad Stoica: 3300 participants, technical staff and auxiliary staff from 193 countries are registered. Each delegation also does events within the Conference and they have brought various people to help them organize.
Reporter: Will the accommodation costs of the more than 3,000 delegates be borne by the Romanian state?
Vlad Stoica: We do not provide accommodation and meals for participants. It is a policy of the ITU. Each delegation bears its own costs.
In the agreement that Romania made with the ITU, we signed a specification regarding their organizational requirements. Certain conditions for the organization of the event were mentioned here. They requested the necessary equipment, the number of rooms they need, their dimensions, the number of participants for each room, security and protection services, what rules we have to follow. The country agreement was signed in 2021 and since then we have started work.
The United Nations is a complex organization, of which all countries are members. We need to provide translation into several languages. We have to provide facilities for all religions and other such things. There are some conditions that the Romanian state assumed when the country agreement was signed.
Reporter: What are the costs for the Romanian state?
Vlad Stoica: It is difficult to say now because we are talking about an ongoing event. But the amounts are public.
About 88 million lei were allocated, according to a GD, but only about 60 million lei have been drawn so far, as far as we know.
Each ministry received money, for example the Ministry of Culture received money to do the events at the Romanian Opera, the Ministry of Tourism to organize the excursions, ANCOM, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies received money to furnish the halls, STS needed money as to deal with communications, SPP to prepare the guard and protection of the delegates.
Each institution made a budget to ensure sufficient resources. It’s hard for me to say now how much the event costs, because I don’t know how much was spent.
We will take stock at the end.
Reporter: Who was in charge of creating the visual identity of the event?
Vlad Stoica: Our teams, together with the ITU General Secretariat. We made the proposals and they selected.
Reporter: Since the event lasts for three weeks, what will happen after the opening event?
Vlad Stoica: ITU works like a Parliament. We have resolutions on various fields, which are adopted in committees, after which they are voted on in plenary. The same will happen at ITU. There will be many discussions, negotiations.
ITU is the one that sets the regulations in the communications sector. ITU is the oldest UN organization, established in 1865, and Romania joined in 1866. All countries adhere to some principles, in which they must collaborate.
The organization of this event brings us to the attention of all countries in the area of information technology and communications. Practically, all commercial companies around the globe look at what the ITU regulates, because they depend on the developments that the United Nations Organization establishes through the ITU, for the next four years. What will happen in Romania will also matter for international organizations. Here I am referring both to large commercial companies and to state ones.
Reporter: Is it a very difficult event to organize, given the very difficult international context?
Vlad Stoica: Four years ago, we had no way of knowing today’s conditions. And the large number of participants is, I believe, the largest number of delegates ever to come to an ITU conference – over 3000. We had in the specifications to provide a 2,000-seat plenary hall, and now we found ourselves with over 3000. But this is already assumed by ITU.
Reporter: How will Bucharest cope with over 3,000 delegates for three weeks?
Vlad Stoica: There is a Committee, with the participation of the Capital City Hall, the Romanian Police, SPP, STS, ISU, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Tourism, Culture, etc.
Everyone works for this event. I hope we disturb as little as possible, but at the same time it is an event to be proud of, because we had the honor of winning this organization.
In 2018, at the ITU Plenipotentiaries Conference in Dubai, the Romanian delegation held preliminary discussions with ITU officials thinking that it would be good if Romania hosted the event. In the first phase, it was about the informal discussions in Dubai. Subsequently, starting from this idea, a year later, ANCOM together with the Ministry of Communications and Information Society generated a series of discussions at the government level with all other state institutions and assumed the candidacy for the organization of this event.
The designation of Romania as the host country had the unanimous agreement of the ITU member states. There was no other candidacy submitted, there being also a certain context, namely that such an event has not been held in Europe for a long time, in fact for about 30 years. All 48 member countries in the ITU Council voted for Romania to host this event, after which the more technical part began.
Reporter: What message do you have for the participants at the ITU Conference, as ANCOM president?
Vlad Stoica: Given that ANCOM is the integrator of the organization of this conference, we hope to provide the participants with everything they need so that there are no problems. We want all delegates to enjoy what Romania as a country and we as Romanians can offer them.
Together with the representatives of the state, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism, we want to maximize Romania’s chances, to show everyone that we can be an important point on the map.
For three weeks there will be the World Government in Communications in Romania. We will have delegates from 193 countries, at ministerial level – about 80, heads of regulatory authorities, ambassadors. I think we will also have heads of state, prime ministers.
Reporter: The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference takes place at the same time as the spectrum auction…
Vlad Stoica: Correct. That’s how it happened. We split between the auction and organizing the ITU event. It’s a big effort from our institution, with a lot of pressure. I hope it works out for both of us..
Reporter: At what stage is the auction?
Vlad Stoica: We are already in the procedure. Now the operators will take their specifications – I hope as many as possible – and participate in the auction. By the end of November we should already have the given spectrum.
We passed the Communications Code, the law was promulgated a few months ago. Basically, the Communications Code is the primary law based on which we can do the bidding. Without the Communications Code, the auction could not take place.
Through the Communications Code we transpose a directive of the European Union.
The new European Union directives say that the licensing period for operators must be longer than what we had in the original primary legislation of 10 years. Now it is 20 years and we even offer 5 years more because we are legally allowed.
With the transposition of the Communications Code, there is no longer a case of infringement.
Also, by opening the procedure, we met our PNRR milestones (147), and following the completion of the tender, we will also meet milestone 149, milestones related to ANCOM, although we do not have funding from PNRR.
These benchmarks were probably set because you can’t digitize without communications. And then Romania assumed that it was doing the bidding, so that we could ensure the necessary infrastructure for data transfer for the digitization strategy that we assumed as a state.
Reporter: Who can participate in the spectrum auction?
Vlad Stoica: Theoretically, anyone can participate, if they meet certain conditions.
It has never happened in Romania that anyone other than our operators participated.
Reporter: Do you expect to sell all the spectrum?
Vlad Stoica: Each operator makes some evaluations on some business cases, which we do not know. They will take their spectrum according to the business cases they make, so that they can afford to make the investments and use that spectrum for business development and providing communications services.
Ideally for us it would be to sell all the spectrum, but at the same time we can’t force the operators to do that either. We auctioned the entire spectrum. If we look at the history, we have seen that it has never been taken 100 percent. And not only in Romania, but almost everywhere.
Depending on how much spectrum will be taken, the Romanian state will decide in the next period whether we still need to do a new auction or not.
We, being the regulators and arbiter of the communications market, are constantly in dialogue with the industry, the Government and the citizens. And depending on the evolution of the market, we make assessments based on the macroeconomic data, the data that the operators, the industry, the Ministry of Finance provide us, and we will decide later what we will do.
I do hope, however, that enough spectrum is taken up so that we have better services in the near future.
Our goal is to try to find that balance between operators, citizens and the needs of the state.
Through the dialogue held over the last half year together with the Government, industry, citizens and civil society, I believe we have succeeded in creating this balance.
I wish we have a successful auction. But, now, we are experiencing an atypical situation, post pandemic and with war on Romania’s borders.
Reporter: If the auction takes place this year, how long will citizens and companies benefit from the new technologies?
Vlad Stoica: Everything depends on the operators. In the terms of the spectrum sale, we have imposed some investment conditions and coverage of some areas that are not covered so far. We can’t force them to make the investments quickly because technically it’s not possible.
In the coming years, new technologies will be seen. I believe that every year will bring something new and something better and I hope we have 5G technology all over the country as soon as possible.
Reporter: What other objectives does ANCOM have for the end of this year and for next year?
Vlad Stoica: Now, the main objectives, as you know, are the two, the ITU Conference and the spectrum auction.
Given the technological evolution, every state institution has to adapt to new developments and we are trying to open up to data transfer. We are in permanent contact with the European Union, considering the discussions on data transfer regulations, on online regulations. We are open and try to adapt as quickly as possible.
Otherwise, from an organizational point of view, we are trying to solve our IT flow of documents, to become a much more modern institution – ANCOM being a good institution compared to what is found in the public administration. We are a niche institution, with many engineers and with a budget that we do not receive from the state.
We are an institution where we have good equipment, so that we can monitor, control, be able to provide information to the citizens, but also to the industry regarding our communications area.
I think that an important project to open the institution to the digital area is data transfer. This is the new challenge.