ECC Q&A for Covid-19 related issues

When will face-to-face meetings of ECC groups resume?

All meetings of ECC, its WGs and PTs have taken place online, via the ECO's GoToMeeting platform, since mid-March 2020. Following the CEPT presidency communication, considering the latest developments, a decision was taken to maintain the policy of web meetings only until 30 April 2021. A review of the situation will take place in March and further communication will be circulated. The ECC SG and ECO will continue to monitor the situation closely. Interested colleagues should refer to the ECC meeting calendar -https://www.cept.org/ecc/meeting-calendar- for latest information on upcoming meetings.

Will it be possible to hold virtual meetings for the bigger groups, including ECC, CPG, WG NaN, WG SE, WG FM, PT1?

Holding the larger meetings as web meetings presents some additional challenges but these challenges have been overcome with all the main working groups, PT1 and the ECC plenary holding successful meetings online over the Spring and Summer period. Working Group and Project Team chairs have considered the format for these meetings and have made appropriate changes such as splitting meetings into separate sessions over longer periods rather than single block over 3-4 days. Additional electronic tools provided by ECO can be used to better prepare, support and facilitate the work of the virtual meetings. We will continue to discuss and will consider opportunities to learn from one another as we all gain experience of holding virtual meetings.

Agendas for virtual meetings may be shorter and focused on specific issues that require most urgent attention. Chairmen and participants are encouraged to work constructively within the current limitations and undertake best efforts to reach consensus. We would like to highlight Article 14.2 of the ECC Rules of Procedure (RoP):

“Consensus is defined as the general agreement, characterised by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting arguments. Consensus does not imply unanimity.”

As with physical meetings, it will not always be possible to reach consensus on all issues at the first attempt, noting in particular that virtual meetings may not offer opportunities for off-line discussions which might have otherwise helped to resolve difficult issues. In such cases it may be advisable to schedule separate and dedicated meetings to address any such issue where consensus cannot be reached.

If consensus still cannot be reached, then it will be necessary to refer the issue to the parent group for consideration. In this case the subordinate group is urged to prepare those elements where no consensus was found in a manner that best enables the parental group to take a decision on that item, as far as possible minimising the risk of repeating the discussion (e.g. where more than one solution is proposed, all solutions including the aspects, pros and cons discussed shall be listed and a concrete question for decision shall be formulated).

Will the electronic working methods we have be sufficient?

See: here for the ECC electronic working arrangements and here for specific instructions on usage of the GoToMeeting tool.

Furthermore, there is a need to establish “netiquettes” to ensure that virtual meetings are efficient:

Before the meeting:

  1. In meetings where decisions are being taken it would be important that participants register by the deadline. It would not be appropriate to allow last minute requests to join the meeting unless the need is justified.
  2. Any details related to voting procedures would need to be communicated to the participants in advance.
  3. When participants have joined the meeting but before the chairman formally starts the meeting, each participant would need to be identified and validated against the list of registered participants. A common format for the identification of participants is encouraged: e.g. name of the participant + name of the country + administration / company / MoU/LoU-partner.
  4. Any participants not registered should be asked to leave.
  5. Anonymous users will be asked to identify themselves using the features available in the software so that their name appears correctly on the screen. Unidentified users will be removed from the virtual meeting.
  6. Participants should not forward the connection details to colleagues who are not registered. The details will be sent directly to all registered participants.
  7. If participants from the same organisation need to share a microphone they should communicate this to the other participants so it is clear who is speaking.

During the meeting:

Some “rules of engagement” for web meetings should be laid down.

1. Officials needed:

  • A) chairman,
  • B) secretary,
  • C) ECO support

2. Use a head-set to attend the meeting as appropriate.

3. It is advisable to keep your camera switched-off if not needed.

4. Keep your microphone muted when you do not have the floor.

5. Only ask for the floor via the web-meeting's chat option. Floor requests should be communicated in public chat so that all participants can view the order of requests.

6. The chat should be used only for floor requests or other matters directly relevant to the ongoing discussion (e.g. short comments that do not require verbal interventions, to support the views of the speaker, or to share links to relevant documents). Participants should refrain from engaging in incidental or off-topic discussions within the chat.

7. Only activate your microphone after chairman gives you the floor.

8. Keep your intervention concise and clear, preferably to a maximum of one minute. After a participant finishes making the intervention, they may conclude by stating “This concludes my intervention. Thank you, Chairman.”

9. The chairman and technical secretary/ECO have the right to mute participants who do not comply with the above rules.

10. Ideally, one spokesperson per delegation on each topic. The delegations consisting of more than one participant are encouraged to discuss/coordinate offline their interventions on each topic.


Will all virtual meetings still be open to all participants that would have been able to attend the physical meeting?

Our current intention is that virtual meetings will be open to all participants that would have been eligible to attend the physical meeting in accordance with the ECC RoP and Working Methods (WM). However, particularly when it comes to some of the larger meetings, it may be necessary to take measures - as allowed under Article 11.10 of the RoP - to ensure that the meetings can be run most effectively.

One specific issue concerns the capacity of GoToMeeting which is limited to 151 participants. This is only likely to become a factor in the larger meetings but in such cases discretion rests with the chairman to manage participation most appropriately.

Will it be possible to hold a voting procedure in a virtual meeting, for example elections for an upcoming vacant position?

The voting procedure defined in Article 9 of the RoP for appointing chairmen and vice chairmen of the Plenary and chairmen of working groups requires a secret ballot in accordance with Article 14 and Article 15. Furthermore, for the appointment of vice-chairs of working groups or project teams of the Plenary, there is no procedure defined. Only principles stated in Article 8 which do not cover voting applies. However, common sense would suggest to follow Article 9 as closely as possible.

Voting procedures to elect officials within ECC Groups during online meetings

  1. Once it has been established that an election will need to take place within an ECC group web meeting, the parameters of the election will need to be determined: e.g. number of vacant positions, number of candidates, the time and date when the election will take place.
  2. A contribution document to the meeting in question will be developed which will contain all the information, including a description of the voting procedure. This will be posted at least two weeks in advance of the meeting.
  3. The chairman or secretary of the group will send an email to registered participants from the CEPT administrations to the meeting in question asking them to nominate one representative from their administration to participate in the vote. Only one vote per administration will be permitted and the nominated person must be present in the web meeting. If proxy voting is needed, then a second person from the administration must be nominated to cast the proxy vote. It will not be possible for one nominated person to cast two votes.
  4. When the list of nominated persons has been established, an invitation will be sent to them from the ECO to join a special group set up solely for the purpose of the election.
  5. The ECO will inform the chairman/secretary to confirm that all nominated persons are members of the special group.
  6. The ECO will then create a questionnaire using the online questionnaire tool. The questionnaire will be anonymous in order to respect the secret ballot requirement. Only those nominated persons who are members of the special group will have access. The questionnaire will not be activated until such time as the chairman announces that the election will take place.
  7. There are two scenarios that can arise depending on the nature of the election as described below.

Scenario 1: One vacant position. Two or more candidates.

A) A questionnaire with one single choice compulsory question will be created with the following options:

  • Name of Candidate 1
  • Name of Candidate 2
  • Name of Candidate 3
  • Abstain

B) Following a role call in the meeting, the chairman will announce that the election is to begin. The ECO will then activate the questionnaire and circulate the link to all those nominated to vote.

C) The chairman will then ask all nominated persons to cast their votes and allow a specified time in which to do so.

D) The ECO will inform the chairman about the number of votes cast by simply recording the number of responses to the questionnaire. If there are still outstanding votes to be cast, the chairman will make an announcement asking for remaining votes to be cast.

E) The ECO will then export the results of the vote to a MS Word document. As it will be an anonymous questionnaire, this document will only contain the number of votes cast for each candidate / option and nothing else. The ECO will send the file to the chairman/secretary.

F) The chairman/secretary can then announce the results of the election.

G) When the election is concluded, the ECO will delete the questionnaire and the special group. There will be no record of the vote stored in the questionnaire tool after this step.

Scenario 2: Two vacant positions. Three or more candidates.

A) The ECO investigated various options for this and has concluded that the simplest solution is to hold separate elections for each vacant position. The process described in point 6 above would be used for the first vacancy.

B) When the first vacancy is filled, a second questionnaire would be circulated with the name of the first successful candidate removed from the list. The process described in point 6 above would be used for the second vacancy. This process would be repeated if there were more than two vacancies.

Will there be a need to review and/or amend the RoP or WM?

At the moment we are focusing on what needs to be done at a practical level to ensure that meetings can continue to be held effectively, albeit virtually. As we identify any measures to be taken we will consider consistency with the RoP and WM and how any divergence can best be addressed in this specific period. At this stage we do not envisage that there is any need to revise the RoP or WM.

Once the situation has stabilised, we will consider whether there is any need to amend the RoP or WM to better deal with this type of situation in future.

Will remote participation in the future be a structural possibility to attend and intervene in physical meetings outside the ECO premises?

There are a number of factors that would need to be considered in answering this question including, but not limited to, the potential impact of allowing remote participation on the functioning of the meeting, in particular larger ones, and any additional costs that might be incurred by the meeting host to support such arrangements. However, this question does not need to be answered now. Instead it is proposed to further consider this point as the situation begins to stabilise across Europe and as we return to a world where the prospect of holding physical meetings is real. By this stage we will also have had more experience of holding virtual meetings which will help to inform our thinking over the longer term.

Updated: 15 January 2021, 12:39