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Ukraine should become a member of the “roaming EU”

Ukraine’s joining the EU roaming space is an important step that BRDO experts call to make now. In March 2022, Ukraine became a member of the European Energy Union. As the next step, we propose to temporarily abolish roaming charges for Ukrainians and connect Ukraine to the EU roaming market.

Why is this important?

Since the beginning of the RF’s war against Ukraine, more than 3 million Ukrainians have arrived in the EU, and this figure continues to grow. According to the most conservative estimates of BRDO experts, roaming migrants currently generate more than 49 million minutes of voice traffic and more than a petabyte of data traffic per month. It costs migrants tens of millions of euros a month.

Ukraine’s joining the EU roaming market will reduce the cost of communication abroad for Ukrainians, as well as bring Ukraine closer to the EU Digital Single Market.

What are the preconditions for Ukraine on this road?

The policy “The Eastern Partnership beyond 2020: Reinforcing Resilience” envisages that the EU will support the implementation of roaming agreements between partner countries and, if necessary, with the EU. 

Since 2017, Ukraine has repeatedly raised the issue of abolishing roaming charges in the EU for Ukrainian citizens. This document provides for such a possibility.

But the EU has suggested as the first step to create a common roaming space between the Eastern Partnership countries, and only then to connect them to the EU’s roaming space.

However, we believe that with the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine, this approach has become obsolete for several reasons:

  1. The EU supports Ukraine’s accelerated process of European integration.
  2. The biggest wave of migration in the EU since World War II is currently unfolding.
  3. Belarus (one of the Eastern Partnership countries) is taking part in the war against Ukraine. This requires a review of the approach of the work of the Eastern Partnership.

During the war, Ukrainians are in dire need of assistance in joining the “roaming European Union”.

And such initiatives are already being voiced:

  • Angelika Winzig at the European Parliament has already called on EU telecoms operators to temporarily freeze wholesale roaming tariffs charged to their counterparts in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian National regulator appealed to the EU member states to decrease prices for roaming for Ukrainians that became forced migrants.

What should be done next?

Ukraine’s joining the EU’s roaming space requires a roaming agreement between Ukraine and the EU. Moreover, the Association Agreement with the EU provides for Ukraine’s acquisition of the internal market status in the telecommunications services sector.

“Millions of Ukrainians and the EU citizens will be able to feel Ukraine’s joining to the “roaming European Union”. This will allow people in roaming to make more calls between the EU and Ukraine, and to use the Internet abroad freely. It will be another “visa-free regime”, but now in the field of communication between countries,” said Ihor Samokhodskyi, the Head of ICT sector of BRDO.

Therefore, BRDO experts call on the European Union to initiate and ensure as soon as possible the following:

  1. Temporary exemption of Ukrainians from roaming charges in the EU;
  2. Urgent joining of Ukraine to the EU roaming space (based on bilateral agreements between Ukraine and the EU).

For information:

  • Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) – is a leading independent think tank in the field of economic regulation with a focus on implementation. The office was established in 2015 as a non-governmental non-profit organization to assist the government in carrying out medium- and long-term economic reforms to improve the business environment in conditions of political instability.
  • The first steps to help Ukrainians in roaming are already being implemented: free SIM-cards, free Wi-Fi in refugee camps, partial coverage of international calls and roaming in Ukraine and more. List of operators who are already helping Ukrainians is available here.
  • The issue of abolishing roaming charges for EU end-users is regulated by Regulation (EU) No 531/2012.