EU reprimands Italy, Bulgaria, Romania over emergency number

Eurpeon Union LogoBrussels - The European Commission on Thursday opened legal proceedings against Italy over its failure to fully implement the European Union's common emergency phone number - 112.

The EU executive, in its role of guardian of the bloc's treaties, also referred Bulgaria and Romania to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for similar failures.

The 112, introduced in 1991, allows citizens across the EU to call for an ambulance, the police or the fire brigade by dialling a single number, free of charge. Since 2003, telecoms operators must also provide caller location information to allow a speedier response from the emergency services.

Italy is being referred to the ECJ because the country's call centres are not always able to transfer calls to the appropriate service. The commission had already opened an infringement procedure against Italy in 2006 over its failure to implement the caller location information rule.

Consumer groups in Italy welcomed the decision.

"It is good that we have a supra-national body that guarantees the efficiency of emergency services," Carlo Pileri of ADOC, one of Italy's largest consumer rights association, told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa.

The commission also criticized Bulgaria, where the 112 number still doesn't work in all parts of the country, and Romania, where caller location is not provided.

But it gave the three countries until the end of the year to comply before pursuing the matter further.

Member states found guilty of violating EU rules by the European Court of Justice can face hefty fines.

While the 112 number is intended to save lives, a recent EU survey found that the vast majority of the bloc's citizens are still not aware of its existence. (dpa)