Spain's telecommunications industry is perplexed by public comments from the European commissioner for the society of information, Viviane Reding, who warned that Spain faced conflict with the European Union over its plans to approve disconnection laws to combat illegal downloads.

The comments, which are completely opposite to Spain's stated intention, came at a Nov. 23 meeting organised by Spain's Telecommunications Market Commission (CMT) in Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house in central Barcelona, on the eve of today's European Parliament vote on the so-called Telecoms Package - passed today (Nov. 24) - to establish new European telecommunications and Internet legislation.

After receiving the Atlántida Prize from the Catalonian Publishers' Society, Reding told her stunned audience: "The Spanish measures that allow the interruption of access to Internet without an impartial procedure before a judge, is certain to enter into conflict with the European Union".

Just one week ago, Spanish culture minister Angeles González-Sinde made it clear at a three-day trade fair on digital content that Spain would not pursue the three-strikes or disconnection path, but would instead seek to penalise Web sites that provide the option of downloading without paying. This is now the position of both the culture industry and the Internet service providers (ISPs) in Spain.

Last month, the Spanish government ended years of inactivity by creating an inter-ministerial working commission which must report on violations of intellectual property laws by December 31, one day before Spain assumes the six-month presidency of the 27-nation European Union.

CMT president Reynaldo Rodríguez tried to play down the Barcelona incident. "I'm sure it was a misunderstanding.," he said. "I don't think there is going to be any conflict between the EU and Spain [over imminent Internet piracy legislation]. Spain is in talks with the EU over this subject. Reding's comment was an exaggeration."

But Reding's comments were reported to have caused indignation at a time when Spain is about to introduce its first anti-piracy legislation, and which will almost certainly point in a different direction to that indicated by Reding.

Joan Navarro, director of the Coalition of Creators and Content Industries, which includes labels' body Promusicae and collecting society SGAE, said, "We have barely overcome the shock. We are hoping somebody will clear up this mess, because we have no intention of cutting Internet to anybody."

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