Telekom Austria CEO Hannes Ametsreiter on Sunday said Europe needs a clear plan to reclaim is leading position in the telecoms industry.

European telecoms regulation "just doesn't work", because it has left operators with insufficient margins to justify large-scale investments in new technology, he said at a press briefing on the eve of Mobile World Congress.

He said initiatives by the European Commission to drive the development of new technology, such as the recently launched 5G public private partnership scheme "fall far short" of what Europe needs.

Under the auspices of its €6 billion Horizon 2020 research programme, the Commission has allocated €700 million, match-funded by the private sector, specifically for 5G.

"Europe needs to have a clear plan about bringing Europe back to number one," said Ametsreiter.

"It is extremely important to be strong in education and infrastructure," he continued. "In the U.S., the number one investing company is AT&T and number two is Verizon. They are creating jobs and investing in infrastructure, all without subsidies from the government."

The downward pressure on European operators' earnings has left them vulnerable to takeovers from players in other regions, such as Mexico-based America Movil, which already owns 26.8% of Telekom Austria and 27.1% of Dutch incumbent KPN.

"We feel strong enough that we won't be taken over," said Ametsreiter. However, companies like America Movil "can certainly be consolidators" in Europe's telco sector.