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Procedure : 2006/0196(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0246/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0246/2007

Debates :

PV 10/07/2007 - 5
CRE 10/07/2007 - 5

Votes :

PV 11/07/2007 - 7.10
CRE 11/07/2007 - 7.10
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0336

Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 10 July 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

5. Community postal services (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report by Markus Ferber, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 97/67/EC concerning the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services (COM(2006)0594 – C6-0354/2006 – 2006/0196(COD)) (A6-0246/2007).

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, firstly I would like to warmly thank the Committee on Transport and Tourism and in particular the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, for the excellent work they have carried out in the preparation of your report on the postal directive. This is all the more impressive as the preparation involved five other committees and nearly 600 amendments. Moreover, the dossier is highly sensitive politically and technically complex.

Our proposal is based on sound preparation. It is not the implementation of abstract theories dreamed up in an ivory tower or based on ideological zeal. Market opening is not an end in itself, but good for the consumer, good for business and therefore for the whole economy.

After months of discussion there is always a risk that we may lose sight of the original intention. Therefore let me just remind you of what our proposal actually entails. First and foremost, the Commission’s proposal aims to guarantee a high quality universal service for all users throughout the European Union. Postal users and consumers are entitled to top-class postal services. They must be accessible to all at affordable prices.

Secondly, based on detailed study and wide consultation, the Commission confirms in its proposal that 2009 is the target date for the abolition of any remaining exclusive rights and monopolies. Such exclusive rights and monopolies prevent competition and the positive effects it has had on innovation, quality and prices.

Thirdly, our proposal confirms the availability of a broad range of financing mechanisms Member States may choose from in order to finance any net cost or unfair burden the universal service obligation may impose on the universal service providers.

Fourthly, the proposal allows for more flexibility in terms of pricing of postal services so that they can better reflect actual costs, while maintaining the possibility for uniform tariffs for consumer or single-piece tariff mail. The Commission attaches great importance to the role postal services play for territorial and social cohesion. Uniform tariffs for consumer mail are a reflection of this. The proposal also reinforces consumers’ rights in terms of redress, for example.

Fifthly, the proposal seeks to amend provisions concerning authorisation and licensing to reduce unjustified barriers to entry. The proposal also clarifies rules on access to postal infrastructure.

Finally, the proposal provides for greater clarity on the role and independence of national regulatory authorities.

These elements build on the success achieved to date with the gradual opening of the market and will provide a framework that will allow the postal sector to develop its potential. It is truly the final step in a long process started the better part of two decades ago.

It is common knowledge that a ‘communications revolution’ is taking place. This is a significant challenge for all of us in our daily lives. It poses a threat for those postal operators that fail to adapt. No reserved area can protect any postal operator from the competition from other means of communication. The only option is to reform and to adapt and to turn the challenge into an opportunity. This fast-changing context makes it all the more necessary to finalise the reform process which started more than 15 years ago. The European Parliament has shaped this reform significantly at all stages. The Commission is ready to assist so that the internal market on postal services can finally be accomplished.

Experience with market opening to date has been overwhelmingly positive. Efficiency, quality and performance have substantially increased. A high-quality universal service at affordable prices is being provided throughout the European Union.

It is our joint responsibility that this continues to be the case. Full market opening is the right way forward. In the past months some have tried to portray market opening and the success of other postal operators as threats. However, most have now realised that these are challenges that we must face and that it is much more important to focus on how to face them. On the whole, the constructive approach prevails. This makes me optimistic that common ground on this important file can be found at the end of the day.

In conclusion, this Directive constitutes an essential element of the Lisbon Agenda. The time is now ripe to give EU citizens the choice they are entitled to and expect. Mail users and consumers will be the main beneficiaries of the directive. Market opening in 2009 will introduce controlled and regulated competition that will foster innovation, new business models and new services. It is not the question of dividing up the cake differently, or of introducing reform at the expense of the people working in the sector, but it is the question of increasing the size of the market and letting everyone benefit from this.

 
  
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  Markus Ferber (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, liberalisation of the postal services is one of the most important proposals under discussion in the second half of this term. We have been working on it since the third and fourth terms, and I would like to recapitulate everything that has been done since the Green Paper the European Commission submitted in 1992. It is important for us as a parliament to send out a clear signal today and tomorrow in the vote. Hopefully we will soon bring this development, which started in the late 1980s, to a successful conclusion.

What is the main issue? Quite simply, the issue is to move from an offer-based postal service to a demand-based postal service. We have had monopolies in the Member States for 200 years now. In the course of today’s debate, we will hear about many problems affecting the postal services. For me there can be only one conclusion: monopolies are not in a position to solve these problems. They can only be solved when there is fair competition – and that is something we value greatly – in the European Union, but fair competition where there is a strong emphasis on working conditions, but competition is nevertheless allowed.

That is the model that we in the Committee on Transport and Tourism have drawn up together, regardless of national and party boundaries. At this point I would like to thank all my fellow MEPs who participated and contributed to reaching this compromise. We can confidently say that by the end of 2010 the postal markets in all Member States will be opened up, while we have provided for a few exceptions up to the year 2012. Let us say clearly that those who come from a protected domain do not have the right to get involved where competition already exists. That is what reciprocity is about.

At this point let me point out that a common objection to this is that this runs counter to the EU Treaty. My only reply to that is look at the currently applicable Postal Directive. This explicitly proscribes entering a competitive market with profits made as a monopoly. Ten cases are pending in the DG Competition against Member States suspected of doing precisely this. If the current Directive therefore provides us with a tool to ensure this kind of reciprocity, then we should make use of it.

We have said quite clearly that there should be no change to the scope of postal services that should be available to every citizen of the EU. The universal service must be available to every citizen, regardless of where he or she lives, be it in the town or the country, be it at the heart or at the edge of Europe. That is the right approach. We have already shown that there is a legal entitlement to a certain level of service provision in other areas of market liberalisation.

The next big question was how can this universal service be funded? Together we have come up with a good solution. However, it is important that the Member States are given sufficient instruments. If you read the Directive carefully, you will find five instruments, four proposed by the Commission and a few more mixed forms which we have added, to allow us to organise this universal service so that it is available everywhere.

We have drawn up a clear schedule of what the Commission and the Member States need to do before the markets are opened. This will avoid anybody being taken by surprise when the measures are implemented, as it is all being done in agreement with the Member States. We have focused heavily on consumer protection aspects: the Commissioner has already set out the uniform tariffs which will enable citizens to continue to use the model of a standard letter. We also want to continue to guarantee the service for the visually impaired. Further to the Commission’s proposal we have also introduced a far-reaching complaints system to ensure that consumer rights will continue to be protected even under a liberalised regime.

We have dealt closely with the issue of postal employees. There are more than a million postal employees in the European Union, and they obviously want to know what will happen to them in a liberalised environment. I believe that we have found the right solutions, both as regards the definition of a postal employee, and as regards securing the rights they are guaranteed on a national basis.

I would like to thank everybody who helped us to reach this compromise, and in particular the Commission for its proactive support. I hope that the Council will also shortly be in a state to formulate a common position on the basis of our first reading.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I owe the privilege of speaking in this debate to the unfortunate outcome of the review of the opinion initially drafted by my colleague Gilles Savary for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. On account of the vote that took place in that committee, the rapporteur did not wish his name to appear on this report.

We began the process of opening up postal services to competition 10 years ago, progressively reducing the monopoly of national operators while at the same time endeavouring to ensure that a universal service is retained. This universal service requirement is today reaffirmed in the Ferber report, which defines for this purpose three means of financing and recognises as a result that the single market would not be able to guarantee a daily service over the whole of our territories. The further period of two years granted to new Member States and to States with a difficult topography illustrates well the difficulty of reconciling full liberalisation and public service obligations.

The rapporteur wanted to include a fourth area, a fourth means of financing, that of the reserved area. Your Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs chose not to follow the rapporteur, either on the introduction of this notion of a reserved area or on an alteration to the timetable. It preferred to stick virtually to the Commission’s initial proposal to make 2009 the date for the opening up of the postal service to liberalisation. I wish to say that, in fact, in this exceptional case and speaking personally, I consider that the committee responsible was right not to listen to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. In saying that, I am expressing a purely personal opinion: I am not speaking as the chairman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

 
  
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  Stephen Hughes (PSE), Draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – Mr President, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs would have preferred to make the full accomplishment of the postal internal market subject to a new prospective study, showing that universal service could be maintained in each Member State, and looking at how to maintain or improve the employment situation in the postal sector. However, sometimes politics is about the art of the possible, and I know my good friend Brian Simpson negotiated the best possible deal he could with the rapporteur and the other shadows in the Committee on Transport and Tourism.

We are pleased at the clear emphasis placed on maintaining the provision of universal service and on the number of safeguards built into the report in the form in which it will come before this House. We are also happy about the report’s focus on the need to ensure good social and employment standards as liberalisation begins to unfold. This is an important point given that even Deutsche Post has expressed some disquiet over declining employment standards amongst some new entrants to the German postal market.

We accept that this was the best achievable deal at this late stage in the liberalisation process.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – (DE) Mr President, unlike some of my fellow MEPs, I did know that Mr Ferber, his opening statement notwithstanding, is a man who is open to compromise and has reached a good solution. Mr Ferber presented the situation as it is: there are many differences in Europe, with liberalisation far advanced in some countries, and less so in others. Holding this process back would have been impossible, and probably futile.

The main point – and on this we were able to agree with the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, which was the first to get the issue moving – is that there is a comprehensive universal service that guarantees all citizens, regardless of whether they live in a city or in an isolated region, whether they are rich or poor, and which the post offices or postal services provide. Regulating this remains the responsibility of the national governments.

That was why we insisted, and I am pleased that the lead committee took up this idea, that we should take our time on this, without putting it off indefinitely, as some countries had already made proper preparations, but enough time for our citizens and also businesses and organisations to prepare, in order to ensure that industry and citizens get a proper service.

Another important issue is that of employment. Liberalisation and opening the market must not be based on the principle of ‘the lower the pay and the worse the conditions, the better’. The point is for there to be fair competition between the existing and new postal institutions. This too has been properly dealt with in the report.

For these reasons, it is my personal view that we have found a good solution. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has given its approval, and I am hoping that the majority in this House will agree to this proposal.

 
  
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  Markus Pieper (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, liberalisation of the postal market also has a regional dimension, because the reliability and quality of postal deliveries is a regional factor for the economy as well as for the population.

First of all I would like to thank Richard Seeber, the draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. He asked me to take over his section. I would also like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, for his very balanced report.

In principle, we welcome the opening of the markets. It is not an end in itself, but a tool for increasing the postal sector’s efficiency and quality of service. Liberalisation will, as has been the case in other fields, create far more jobs than the protected markets do. The Committee on Regional Development does, however, recommend that the impact of liberalisation be analysed more closely. How do free markets affect regional cohesion, and how do they affect regional competitiveness?

In the case of rural and isolated areas we must, together with the private providers, find market-like solutions that do not increase costs to customers or reduce the frequency of deliveries. In this regard, e-commerce and Internet mail order provides some interesting perspectives for the rural areas, including by providing equivalent substitutes for services previously provided by the state. But the Committee on Regional Development does say that the consequences of maintaining the universal service in the long term must be given further consideration.

Those Member States which consider it necessary would be given the opportunity to postpone the completion of the internal postal services market, which is planned for 2009. On these grounds we also welcome the extension of the deadlines for the new Member States, and for very remote areas envisaged by the Committee on Transport and Tourism.

The resultant two-tier opening of the market must not, however, result in a situation where state-owned monopolies from protected areas offer services in liberalised Member States or regions. This is another form of distorted competition that the Member States and …

(The President cut off the speaker.)

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as the Commissioner stated a moment ago, we have been opening up the European market for postal services for more than 10 years now and, today, we are deciding on the final phase, on what should be done with the reserved area of postal items weighing up to 50 grams. Once this residual monopoly has been removed, we will have, in a few years’ time, a postal market that has every chance of becoming more dynamic, that will be fully open and that will be able to work in a competitive and transparent manner.

As we see it, the Commission proposal offered us insufficient guarantees for cautious liberalisation but, thanks to rapporteur Ferber’s negotiation skills and the sound cooperation of other fellow MEPs, a politically widely supported arrangement has been made within the Committee on Transport and Tourism which, primarily, offers postal companies extra time to put sound preparations in place. This is, given the fact that not all Member States have reached the same stage on the post-liberalisation track, a sensible route.

Moreover, the Ferber report represents a huge advance in other areas too. For example, employees in the postal sector need not necessarily fear adverse effects, even though we should, of course, remain vigilant in this respect. Equally crucial is our aspiration to guarantee users universal provision of service. Needless to say, mail must still be delivered on a daily basis and users must be able to post mail close to home.

Key to this is, of course, the national plan which Member States need to present to the Commission in connection with the financing of their universal service. All in all, we expect an even-handed document following the vote tomorrow, whereupon it will be up to the Council, and certainly the Member States, to deal with our voting result wisely.

 
  
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  Brian Simpson, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, I congratulate our rapporteur, Mr Ferber, on his work on this report. It is a long time since he and I first crossed swords on postal services many years ago. In fact, I think we may even have still had the Berlin Wall at the time, which just shows you how long this has been going on.

Postal services are a highly personal and highly political issue. That is why they are different to other sectors, like telecoms and energy, because post, as I have often said in this House, is about people; it is about frontline public service. That is why it is important and generates a lot of interest.

I know in the work we have done in committee we have tried to take on board the views of other committees and political groups. And, after a lot of hard work, and I have to say a great deal of good will, we reached an agreement, which I think is a good one.

I just want to say that this particular directive is not really about liberalisation. The argument as to whether we should liberalise the post was lost many years ago. Mr Hughes is right when he says that politics is about the art of the possible. And those who are a minority – and I respect them for their views – who think that we should stay with the old ways, stay with the monopolistic sector and reserved area, well, whilst I see the merits of their argument, in the real world, that is not where we are, that is not where we are living. The vast majority of our Member States have liberalised; the vast majority of those who have not would like to and so, therefore, it is a dose of reality that is sometimes needed.

Parliament agreed to controlled liberalisation and, indeed, in its last pronouncement agreed that that should be on 1 January 2009. Yet, since then, we have had the accession of the new Member States and my group believes that that means we need to think through what we did previously with a view to a different timetable and delaying the implementation for those who need it.

But I have to say that, whilst the Commission is strong on universal service, it is weak on how to finance that universal service within its proposals.

So let us look at the key issue. How do we guarantee a universal service, and a universal service that treats all citizens equally, irrespective of where they live? That is why we support the guarantee of access points in rural and peripheral areas. How do we finance that universal service? How do we have the national plans in place to enable that to happen? How do we protect the workers and their working conditions, and how do we ensure that the new Member States are not forced into competition that they cannot sustain? That is where the timescale is important.

They are the issues we have addressed in this report and in the compromise that we reached and I hope Parliament will support that compromise tomorrow.

 
  
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  Luigi Cocilovo, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should also like to congratulate Mr Ferber warmly on his work. I believe that other committed colleagues have worked together on this issue and I do not believe that, however delicate and complicated it was, it was a ‘duel at dawn behind the convent’ between Mr Ferber and Mr Simpson: it was not a question of crossing swords but of realising that this is a sensitive sector, as are all the sectors where supply cannot be guided solely by economic advantage but must also be guided by the need to respond to the public interest. This may go beyond the solutions that are normal in supply and demand situations, based solely on the market and the market’s advantage.

It was necessary to find a difficult balance, since the reform, as already mentioned by the Commissioner and again pointed out by Mr Ferber, was not brought about by the market but in the interest of consumers. The market can only be one tool in achieving and guaranteeing as far as possible that consumers’ interests are served by reducing the costs of the quality of services. I too believe that the old monopoly industries were not up to meeting the challenges: it would, however, be dangerous to imagine that in these cases the only answer is to open up the market to competition. This is a move which, although useful, fundamental and important, is not sufficient in itself.

From this follows the search for a guaranteed universal service, with various options, avoiding the risks of ambiguity in interpretation and of disputes, which we have probably not eliminated entirely. There are various options, all directed – in view of the diversity of the various markets – towards the need to contribute to the net costs of a service which in many circumstances will never be covered exclusively through the operation of the market. To this end, as has been pointed out, fair competition is crucial.

I do not share the suspicion of the system of granting licences, which has been seen as akin to a guillotine, preventing or suffocating competition. Licences can be highly useful instruments in ensuring the suitability of a company and ensuring that competition takes place freely but within a framework of rules which, involving compliance with regulations on social security, professional qualifications, definitions of replacement services and public interest requirements, can transparently apply to all operators in the sector.

This will also be a tool to prevent those with the burden of the universal service from entering the ring of competition with their hands tied behind their backs.

 
  
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  Roberts Zīle, on behalf of the UEN Group. (LV) Thank you, Mr President, Mr McCreevy. I would also like to begin by congratulating Mr Ferber on the excellent compromise that he has managed to achieve in an extremely difficult situation, as demonstrated by the many hundreds of proposals which emerged from extremely diverse interest groups. I am also pleased that this is a case where the specific features of the new Member States have been taken into account, through the provision of the two-year extension and possibly an even longer deadline for the retention of the universal service. I would certainly like to acknowledge the fact that in many new Member States the postal service is not yet ready for real competition of this kind. Thus it is very important, on the one hand, that an improvement in the quality of postal services should be achieved in the new Member States – which is something that competition offers – but, on the other hand, we need to retain the human aspect of which Mr Simpson just spoke. I am also pleased that the Member States have an opportunity to choose one of a range of models to fund this period of universal service, and, finally, I am pleased that it was possible, within the committees, to reach a compromise in relation to preserving the protection of personal data in those cases where the provider of the current universal service has to hand over its database to other market participants. Accordingly, I very much hope that tomorrow’s vote will be successful, and that the lengthy work on the postal services directive will come to an end. Thank you.

 
  
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  Eva Lichtenberger, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, competition has always delivered positive results when it has operated within a good framework. The same applies to postal services – wherever feasible. For the sake of fairness, however, it must be said that in the latest phase of liberalisation, consumers, particularly in rural areas, have noted a decline in service quality. Private does not automatically mean good, just as state-owned is not automatically good. What we need is good, positive and fair conditions.

The Commission rightly points out the importance of comprehensive service provision, particularly for rural areas. Services must not be allowed to concentrate only in the cities. The proposals on funding these services, which are more costly, are, however, largely unrealistic, only aimed at the large Member States and are defined in vague terms. The European Court of Justice will have its work cut out for it.

Another result is that many fellow MEPs have requested derogations. So now we have one law for Greece, whereby countries with many islands can liberalise more slowly. There is another law for Luxembourg, whereby small countries with a restricted population – an interesting choice of words – should liberalise later, and ditto for the new Member States. In summary, these are rather vague formulations. Nevertheless, I appeal to you: do not postpone your decision! Problems cannot be solved by shelving them. That is why I cannot agree to mere postponement, and the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance is with me on this.

What we need to end once and for all – and this is the crux of the report – is the option of demarcating a reserved area, which ultimately means that everything is subsidised, from profitable junk mail to loss-making private mail. This practice must end. However, in its generosity, the Commission continues to allow such state subsidies. This I regard as an erroneous approach. I am more in favour of a benefit-oriented approach. The compensation fund that is being proposed, while it may be feasible in large Member States, is not feasible in small ones, as the market has not yet adjusted itself adequately.

Direct mail is a goldmine. Letters weighing less than 50 g are the category that the private operators are waiting to get their hands on. They are not in the slightest bit interested in the Christmas card to auntie Maria who lives up the mountains. So what will the result of the report be, if it is adopted as it is? Overflowing mailboxes in the cities, mountains of junk mail, and good private mail service provision in the towns, but a gradual running down of services in the country. This will be the inevitable result, as governments will in the long run no longer be able, or want, to fund the service.

And how will the providers compete? At the price of the employees working there, and of the rural population. The private operators will only be able to take their cut if working conditions deteriorate: please bear this in mind during the debate. What we will have on our hands is social dumping, which we will not be able to reverse by some recital or other.

 
  
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  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, my colleague, Erik Meijer, will go back over the report by Mr Ferber.

For my part, I should like to give some actual illustrations, starting with this case of the draft directive and the Commission’s attitude with regard to it, of the liberal dogmatism that feeds the crisis of legitimacy in the European economic and social model and the arrogance that maintains the climate of defiance towards our institutions.

I recall what the European Trade Union Confederation said, from the beginning, about your draft proposal, Mr McCreevy. I quote: ‘This proposal will eliminate the reserved area sector which has proved to be the only reliable service’. It continues and again, I quote: ‘Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost since the liberalisation was launched. In the long run, this will have a far-reaching and negative impact on the European Union. The European Trade Union Confederation urges the Council and Parliament not to adopt the Commission’s proposal’.

For its part, the UNI-Europe postal network, which represents more than a million employees, considers, I quote: ‘That the Commission’s proposal would jeopardise the extent, the quality and the access to services currently enjoyed by European citizens’. It also – I am still quoting – ‘unanimously urges the Council and Parliament to reject the Commission’s proposal’ which has, according to the network’s General Secretary, I quote: ‘failed to guarantee the financing of the universal postal service for the citizen’. It is clear!

Furthermore, tens of thousands of petitions from users opposing this bad text have been sent directly to the Commission. For their part, nine of the incumbent postal operators have laid stress on the threat that is hanging over the future financing of the universal service. Better still, according to Luxembourg’s Minister for Communications, Mr Jean-Louis Schiltz, a majority of Member States have problems with the rules laid down for financing the public service if this directive is applied. The Commission’s answer to this avalanche of questioning is that its directive is the only realistic option. End of story.

That is precisely, Mr President, what is no longer acceptable to public opinion and likewise on our authority it is no longer acceptable to the greatest possible number of Members of the European Parliament. That is the meaning of our amendment calling for rejection, whether it be for 2009 or later. I will see you tomorrow for the vote.

 
  
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  Michael Henry Nattrass, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, managing a postal system delivering to every part of the UK six days a week, as experienced by the British for more than a century, is a UK issue, not for EU rubberstamping. Efficient mail delivery encourages business, especially in rural areas. It is a public service. The Royal Mail may require subsidies to deliver to remote outposts, including Scottish islands. That is a matter for central and local British Government, not the EU. The EU concept favours more junk mail which is not required by the British, nor by their recycling bins. As usual, the EU wishes to micro-manage every aspect, destroying methods which have worked well for years, whilst dictating rules which limit innovation.

The EU meddling with the UK postal system is as foreign to me as Britain fiddling with the Flemish, Finnish or French letters. You may expect that I should welcome postdating of the full market to December 2010. In fact, I reject the entire directive on the simple British principle of mind your own business and we will get it sorted, not the apparent EU directive of stand and deliver while we envelop you in red tape.

In short, I mark this directive ‘return to sender’.

 
  
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  Luca Romagnoli, on behalf of the ITS Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the proposal for an amendment to the directive on completing the internal market in postal services, put forward by Mr Ferber, has been met with a broad consensus, as demonstrated by its reception in committee as well as the compromises reached on this subject by the political groups.

As I have already stated on other occasions, I am by no means a card-carrying supporter of liberalisation, but quite the reverse. This is partly because, particularly in Italy, it has not produced the miraculous effects in terms of improving services and prices that consumers so often hear alluded to. In fact, in Italy and I challenge my fellow Italian Members who are champions of liberalisation to prove the contrary the liberalisation of various sectors, from insurance to energy, rail and postal services themselves, has resulted in higher costs and greater difficulties in using services.

So much so that, in Italy, despite coming from a certain Marxist tradition, people are becoming champions of liberalisation and becoming ministers. These are not just communists, but communists who, in order to meet the market, actually become ministers, after having sat in passing on these chairs, but with little in the way of commitment or helpful contributions. Thus from communist ministers there is agitation which then affects the various categories, from lawyers to notaries, then taxi drivers, and then bakers, and this confirms the justice of consumption and competition. So this is how, in addition to my ideological convictions, I, a people’s nationalist, have also seen a concrete demonstration that the free market certainly does not cure all ills, but instead often feeds them.

In the hope, however, that at least in my country greater competition in the postal sector – which is, moreover, a public sector which, having been partially privatised, has experienced nothing but a rise in costs compared with a service that is wholly of a European standard – in the hope that all this will finally produce an improvement in the service, I intend to support the Ferber report. I must not omit to say that, in Italy, the service offered by private operators in the sector of deliveries is often excellent and seems to have created more employment than that lost in the public service. Neither can I disregard the fact that, while the large commercial customers do not need any special protection with regard to bad services, small customers are in the opposite situation with regard to the universal service.

It is right for the universal service to be guaranteed for at least five days a week in all Member States, and we must not go back on this. Similarly, I wonder who could oppose the wish for faster, more regular and more reliable postal services or a fair system of reimbursement or compensation, as referred to many times in the Ferber report? The issue is complex and, as is usual here, there is not enough time to analyse all the aspects, both positive and negative, of the report.

I hope that from January 2011 the fact that exclusive rights to provide postal services will not continue will bring universal benefits for all. It will also be the first time that I find myself forced to change my mind about the positive nature of liberalisations.

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the proposal for a postal services directive is a further step towards a very important objective: completing the internal market in postal services, since services of general economic interest play a fundamental role within various countries, in terms of both economic development and social cohesion. It is thus vital that, while fully opening up the market, we guarantee the sustainability of the universal postal service, through the proper measures to fund it.

There are, however, still some criticisms to be overcome. I will mention just two: above all it is important that we define more clearly the criteria for granting authorisations to operators intending to supply both universal postal services and non-universal postal services. This is in order to ensure that all those in the field are subject to equal competitive conditions and the same obligations, both in the supply of the services and the contribution to funding. On this point, the Commission’s original text seems clearer than the text proposed in Amendment 44, which removes various postal operators and designated suppliers from the system of conditions applicable for the granting of licences.

A second aspect relates to the regulation of access to the postal network. In general, in fact, subject to the general principles of transparency and non-discrimination, I cannot see the need for additional regulation. Some Member States have already laid down access criteria on the basis of the needs and characteristics of their own national postal services markets: regulating access cannot, in fact, be defined in a generalised manner, but depends on the situation existing in each individual national market.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, the Postal Directive is a particularly important proposal. It affects not only a million postal workers, but practically all citizens. That is why we did not try and make it easy for ourselves in the Committee on Transport and Tourism. I would like to thank the rapporteur, as the amendments and compromises have enabled us to take major steps forward, and significantly improved the report of the Commission.

What was important to me was, firstly, that service provision should remain at the centre of attention. Secondly what is the future role of the Member States? This should be clearly defined. Service provision should remain the main point, but to me this does not mean that tomorrow you can have lower wages, poorer services, and in the end higher prices, too.

Unlike some of my fellow MEPs, who have a more pessimistic view of the whole matter, as I see it, the Member States have been given an important role in the current proposal. You can utilise your role by maintaining service levels as regards distribution and collection. What citizens respect in terms of services has already been covered in the draft. Social dumping can be avoided if the Member States so wish. In our country, too, there have been petitions on the subject of postmen, to the effect that postmen should keep their present role. Not only did we make allowance for this important function in the draft, but we also stated clearly that Member States may maintain this profession.

As for financing, there is a variety of models. My opinion – although this is not feasible for the time being – is that secure financing should be offered to a part of the reserved sector. But as we are only on the first reading, perhaps the second one will bring in some amendments.

Monopolies must be eliminated, but not at any price. I have already stated our conditions regarding the price: service in the first place, keeping the profession in the second, and guaranteed funding in the third. And finally: to me, the elimination of monopolies does not mean letting new monopolies take their place. It would therefore be good if Parliament again carried out a detailed discussion of the entire principle of liberalisation, particularly as regards service provision for citizens.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, we acknowledge the attitude of the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, on this occasion, since, still on the basis of a radical and simplistic position of liberalisation, which furthermore revealed national interests, he has decided to accept, from the outset, compromises that will attract greater support from this Parliament on such a crucial report as this one.

I would like to acknowledge and congratulate Mr Simpson in particular, however, who has achieved the compromises, and who has done the difficult and thankless but successful work of achieving our group's fundamental objectives: Firstly, to maintain and protect the strictest definition of a universal service, as one that ensures economic, social and territorial cohesion, with a daily presence throughout our territory, at an accessible cost and by means of a high-quality public service.

To that end, it was necessary to clarify and guarantee sufficient financial stability, and we did not therefore agree with the Commission's rather unclear position and we do not therefore believe that the work that the Member States must do is a mere formality and we demand that the Commission take it very seriously.

We also believe the social safeguard clauses to be crucial, and we demand that the Commission and the Member States implement and apply them fully. We therefore urge the unions, operators and regulators to work thoroughly on them, so that that work can run in parallel with that of the Member States.

At a time when we are working to combat precarious employment, unemployment amongst women and in favour of high-quality services close to the citizens, it seemed to us to be highly irresponsible to bring about a worsening of these conditions. We therefore believe that the challenges for the future are to ensure stable and secure funding of the universal service and guarantee quality employment in this sector.

Parliament will be watching very closely to ensure that that is the case.

 
  
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  Dirk Sterckx (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, I support the compromise which the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs have reached. I think that an open European market for postal companies is the only way of addressing the competition with the electronic alternatives. These companies need to modernise, they need to adapt to new circumstances; and, if you have the cushion of a monopoly, then you are unlikely to go out and find new customers. Then you will carry on as before.

We also have a clear timeframe: 2011. Everyone knows where they stand then. We would stress the importance of the public service, not simply to citizens, in fact. This public service is also extremely important to small companies. Also, a tough question is how we compensate for the possible loss of this public service?

This is where the Member States could play a key role, as Mr Grosch has already mentioned, but I should nevertheless like to say that this compensation should not be used to allow postal companies that have always been performing badly to continue in the same vein. We must make the postal sector more efficient, and I think that this will be one of the key effects the proposal on which we will be voting tomorrow will have.

 
  
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  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN). – A Uachtaráin, is é prionsabal na seirbhísí domhanda an ghné is tábhachtaí de na moltaí seo, dar liom. Ciallaíonn an prionsabal sin go gcaithfear seirbhís poist a chur ar fáil do chuile theach agus gnó san Eoraip, cúig nó sé huaire sa tseachtain. Mar sin, beidh ar chuile Bhallstát an córas sin a chur i bhfeidhm agus go gcinnteoidh sé go mbeidh an tseirbhís sin ar fáil i ngach Ballstát. Agus tá seans láidir go dtacóidh an Pharlaimint anseo leis na moltaí seo a chur i bhfeidhm ó 2011 seachas 2009 agus aontaím leis sin. Maidir le cás na hÉireann, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an socrú atá idir an Post agus Banc Fortis na Beilge. Postbank atá ar an gcomhaontú seo agus cuirfidh sé seirbhís bainc ar fáil do chustaiméirí an idirlín agus trí oifigí poist ar fud na hÉireann níos déanaí i mbliana agus creidimse gur rud dearfach é seo mar tá an Post á réiteach féin i gcomhair na hiomaíochta atá le teacht sna seirbhísí san Eoraip agus tá súil agam as seo go dtacóidh sé seo leis na hoifigí poist faoin tuath in Éirinn agus ar fud na hEorpa a choinneáil ar oscailt. Go raibh maith agat.

 
  
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  Pierre Jonckheer (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to make two points. The first concerns the matter of what is actually going on beyond the discussions. The question being asked is actually, first of all, whether putting postal operators into generalised competition makes a relative reduction in prices possible and, if so, whom does it benefit; then, whether it makes for good working conditions and, if so, for whom, and all of that while ensuring the quality of services.

As Members of Parliament, we have been informed by trade unions, but also by the postal operators themselves, that the experience of Germany or Sweden offered no positive answers to these questions. In Germany, we had net losses of 29 000 jobs within the Deutsche Post, of which 15 000 have not been compensated for by the creation of jobs by new operators, not to mention that we are witnessing an increase in casual jobs. In Sweden, price reductions have been of benefit only to large enterprises, at the expense of individual consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Therefore, contrary to what Mr Simpson said, it is not for theoretical reasons that we are advocating keeping the reserved area; it is not because it was decided, in 1997, that the die was necessarily cast. I think that we have to look at the facts, and the facts show that, in many countries which have anticipated the opening up to competition, the results have not been up to expectations. That should give us cause for thought.

My second point concerns the responsibility of Member States. Indeed, as Mr Grosch said, the proposal presented to us leaves a great deal of autonomy to Member States, both in terms of working conditions and provision of services. Having said this, I consider, for my part, that it is not our responsibility as European elected representatives to define a European law and leave to Member States the option of doing or not doing it. That is the reason why our amendments introduce, in the body of the directive, in its articles, requirements in relation to working conditions and pay and in relation to universal service provision. In my opinion, that is the important difference between the Verts/ALE amendments and the compromise amendments supported by the PPE-DE and ALDE Groups as well as some of the Socialists.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL). – (NL) Mr President, more than a century ago, the failure on the part of private postal companies to come up to the mark led to the state taking over. Since then, this has been the best guarantee for postal deliveries on time and at the same price wherever this may be. Differences between densely populated areas, where the delivery of post is profitable, and sparsely populated or remote areas, where the delivery is expensive, fell by the wayside. The sorting and delivery of mail came into the hands of professional people who delivered quality. In many cases, the postman and the post office became a lifeline, not only for rural residents, but also for the economically weakest city dwellers.

For many years, we have noticed that private companies are keen on buying the most profitable sections, for which they ideally use temporary staff, including students, housewives and the elderly, for whom postal delivery is not vital in their lives. They prefer not to pay these people by the hours worked, but by the number of letters handled, and replace postal offices by contracts with supermarkets.

As a result, customers have to make do with less quality and the number of staff is cut down drastically. Politicians who condone this development actually cause a problem instead of solving it. We will soon face the risk of the government needing to subsidise in order to keep the most loss-making sections of postal delivery above water, while the profitable sections will be creamed off by large international companies.

Whilst the compromises struck between the three largest groups may provide a delay and weaken the original proposal, they do not offer anything in the way of sustainable solutions. My group has tabled amending proposals and has supported those of others, but we consider the option of rejecting the proposal and continuing the existing situation to be the best by a long shot.

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM). – (NL) Mr President, first of all, I should like to congratulate Mr Ferber on the result achieved. After years of study and debates, the free postal market is within reach. The main gain of this report is the fact that a deadline has been set for opening up the postal market. This means that suppliers know where they stand. It gives them a chance to adapt their management accordingly, if they have not already done so, as a result of which the sector’s authority is bound to increase as a whole. This is necessary in order to be able to wage the war on electronic communication.

Another gain is the attention to the specific situation in the Member States. The proposal recognises the mutual differences socially, geographically and economically. The Member States have allowed enough room to address these national areas for consideration in the way that suits them best.

I will not deny the fact that some companies in Europe face tough times. Practice, however, has taught us that operating in a market-oriented manner is useful for sharpening the mind and taking opportunities that arise. I hope that all postal companies in Europe are willing and able to wage this war.

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, the fact that the European market is big does not necessarily mean it is effective; it must provide opportunities for growth, opportunities for employment and the potential for social cohesion and must be of a high and competitive international standard.

Our experience tells us that free competition helps in this direction, and that competition, as a market modus operandi, must take account, if it is to have the anticipated positive results, of actual economic, social and territorial conditions.

The rapporteur, Mr Markus Ferber, has managed – and I thank him for that – to combine these parameters, which is quite a feat on a subject such as postal services, which is not simply an economic activity, but is connected with the tradition and everyday life of European citizens and with the image they have of the efficacy of their country.

I consider it important that, at the heart of our work, our core ambition should be to safeguard an efficient and viable universal service and I support the amendment tabled by Mrs Barsi-Pataky and other honourable Members, including myself, to retain proper preparation of the application of free competition, so that today’s directive can be applied up to liberalisation and can safeguard incoming, outgoing and advertising mail.

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the reform of the postal market is a very sensitive issue, because the impact of the market opening will, of course, be different in every country, depending on the geography, the level of urbanisation or the quantity of mail which people tend to send. It is also, as Mr Simpson said, a network of people with which everyone comes into contact.

I have mixed feelings about the compromise that is the subject of tomorrow’s vote. On the one hand, it is certainly the case that, in terms of key areas, it is far removed from the original Commission proposal and from the rapporteur’s position. I am grateful to Mr Ferber for his flexibility in this respect.

The definition of universal provision of service has remained intact. The deadline has been extended by two years. By this date, the Member States will need to notify which model of funding they think likely; and, socially, we have managed to ensure that, via the licensing scheme, the same wage and working conditions can be imposed on all operators. This is essential.

Many question marks remain, though. Is sustainable funding of the universal provision of service possible in a fully liberalised market? Under all circumstances? Unless we assume, of course, that the taxpayer will foot the bill. We have received insufficient guarantees on that score. I think it would have been preferable if, instead of focusing on a date and before deciding on going ahead with liberalisation, we had first checked in every country whether the opening up of the market would be the best way of further modernising the system and guaranteeing quality provision of service.

The compromise is a step forward, but is not enough. There is still work to be done. The ball is too much in the court of the Member States, and consequently I shall definitely be supporting some amendments that did not get adopted in the committee but were re-tabled by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, among others.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, if many of us are in agreement in thinking that fully opening up postal services to competition in 2010 is likely to encourage the conception of services on a European scale and will have a strong impact on the creation of jobs, there are also many of us who say that this modernisation of the postal sector must not damage the current quality of postal services, which are a part of the economic and social life of all our territories and particularly the most remote ones.

I mentioned it before in February 2006 when I spoke about the legitimate fears of our fellow-citizens, of postal workers and the historic operators. I know too that some fears remain in people’s minds. Since then, Parliament’s work, with its various sensitivities, has made possible a greater flexibility in defining the universal service as with its financing, particularly with the introduction of the compensation fund which would allow the cost of the service to be shared more equitably between the operators, according to whether or not they participate, wholly or in part, in carrying out the service.

While closely monitoring the implementation by the authorities of the different countries, and particularly my own, of an ambitious definition of the universal service, we shall pay close attention to its financing mechanisms which make it possible to have a quality postal service for all of our territories, and especially for the citizens, the employees, but above all for European citizens as a whole.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, regarding the debate on the liberalisation of postal services, I would like to express my satisfaction at the amendments implemented by the Committee on Transport and Tourism to the draft put forward by the European Commission.

They meet the expectations of the new Member States half way. Firstly we should note the extension of the deadline for full liberalisation of the postal services market for the new Member States by two years. It is needed by the postal enterprises of those countries so that they can carry out the necessary restructuring in a way which will enable them to compete with the powerful postal enterprises in the old Member States.

Secondly, we should point out the additional subsidies for enterprises providing ‘universal services’, or the establishment of a special fund to which all operators contribute, or the provision of state compensation to operators providing such services.

This solution is hugely important for countries such as Poland, where a large proportion of the population lives in rural areas, often in very remote settlements, which significantly increases the costs of providing postal services.

 
  
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  Joost Lagendijk (Verts/ALE). – (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it has been said on many occasions in this House that what is happening now, what we are debating now, is inevitable, but consumers should have no fear. The provision of service will improve while prices fall.

I do not intend to mince my words when I say that we all know that there are no such guarantees. We know this from experience, for example in Sweden and the UK. Certainly within smaller postal markets, the replacement of the state monopoly will lead to a private monopoly, and we all know that this means that there are no guarantees of the improved provision of service or price cuts.

Quite frankly, though, what is closest to my heart is the position, the future, of the employees who currently work in the postal sector. I am expressing this sentiment based on experience, for example in the already liberalised section of the Dutch postal market, where we notice that many permanent jobs have changed into uncertain part-time jobs. We have to be honest with the citizens of Europe in that area too. By definition, things do not improve following liberalisation.

I am also stating this on the strength of my own, personal experience. My father worked in the postal sector for 40 years, as did my uncles and cousins. These were jobs to be proud of, of which many people were proud, in fact. I know that this world of yesteryear, the world of old certainties, will not come back. It is not out of nostalgia or misplaced romanticism that I would urge us to go back to that era, but it does leave me with, how shall I put it, an uncomfortable feeling about the uncertain future of many people who currently work in the postal sector, who are proud of this, or people who are proud of their postmen.

It is also casting much doubt over the question whether this is now the message which we as the European Parliament should send out. Fine promises to the consumers, which we know we will be unable to keep. Or announcements of far-reaching changes for the employees, the impact of which we know can be enormous. This is not my idea of a social Europe.

 
  
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  Patrick Louis (IND/DEM). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, competition has its virtues but, in a market economy, before we can just laisser faire, there is much to be done. Therefore, town and country planning is one of the conditions of the attractiveness, the economic effectiveness and the quality of life. Full privatisation of the postal service can be damaging to town and country planning and, consequently, to the good of the people.

France is not a flat country, with a uniform topology. Therefore, according to the location, delivery costs for small items of post differ widely. Privatising the service means that sooner or later it will be charged for at its actual cost or abandoned. Consequently, rural or remote areas, which are already in danger of becoming economic deserts, will suffer a competitive disadvantage which will plunge them into the deflationary spiral.

We must, therefore, in this House, admit once more that our countries are different in nature and culture. We must, therefore, give each one them sovereign freedom to find the solution that suits them. The internal market is not an end in itself, it is only a tool at the service of the good of nations. Let us not forget that in the higher interest of our compatriots!

 
  
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  Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, I should like to thank Mr Ferber for the work he as rapporteur has done on this sensitive issue affecting many citizens in Europe, because offering varied and efficient service to consumers and companies no longer works with old state monopolies without market incentives. This is why it is a good thing that, by the end of 2010, these monopolies will have disappeared, and more room will be created for innovation and the new provision of service.

The Council is divided but, under the aegis of Mr Ferber, this House is once again taking the lead in offering a solution for a sensitive subject. The proposal that is now before us is, as I see it, an even-handed one. It provides a clear date for lifting monopolies and laying down reciprocity.

A level playing field, however, is of vital importance. As for the conditions for market access, justice must be done, as it is being done, to different interests. This is why there is a range of possibilities for the Member States where the financing of service is concerned, which also entails the risk, though, of bureaucracy, intransparency and, indirectly, opportunities to protect the market. This is why the European Commission has the huge task of carrying out very critical assessments of the Member States’ funding arrangements and conditions and of checking whether the competition is fair.

Mr Meijer is trapped in the previous century, because the postal market has been undergoing major changes for many years. E-mail, the Internet and other communication technologies have brought about many changes and have changed the postal market beyond recognition. Whilst this is irrevocably at the expense of jobs, a liberalised market also dares us to be creative. New services and new activity lead to new employment, as experience has shown. This employment is more future-proof than holding on to old state monopolies.

 
  
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  Robert Navarro (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, I must first of all convey to you apologies from my colleague, Gilles Savary, who has been held up in Bordeaux.

At a time when the future of the public postal service is being decided, I should like to highlight one particular point: that of the financing of the universal service. The proposal before us today is to replace what is left of the residual monopoly and serves to finance the universal service in a way that is simple and transparent, with an array of complex systems that are hardly transparent and of which the sole merit would be to ensure free and undistorted competition in the postal sector. This array, however, includes compensation funds and we know that they are an open door to constant litigation and public subsidies which can lead to proceedings against Member States or a system called ‘pay or play’ which has never been tried and which could also open the door to endless disputes.

Basically, this white elephant that is being set up is the consequence of a purely ideological choice, which has nothing to do with the real efficiency and quality of the postal service. In the end, this system will lead to a progressive reduction in the range of the universal service and to the end of the uniform tariff while having a definite effect on jobs and administrative costs.

That, we cannot support. The postal service, especially in rural areas, is more than simply a commercial service, it constitutes a tool in the service of social and territorial cohesion, and dismantling it is not the way to reconcile Europe with its citizens.

 
  
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  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, for a Liberal, the compromise that is before us is, in all honesty, not a cause for celebration. After 15 years of debate, the date of entry into force has been brought back after all. Moreover, the compromise contains the necessary protectionist provisions which prevent the market from being opened up completely and make for many legal uncertainties.

In many cases, the debates are nationally biased. Particularly the Member States that have carried out insufficient reforms in recent years are clearly opposed to swift and full market operation. In this way, they withhold the benefits of competition in respect of companies and consumers and, with it, more efficiency, quality and innovation. In this way, they insult – excuse the word – the Member States and postal companies that have been doing the necessary groundwork for years.

With even more astonishment, I have been following the discussions on this matter by the Council, which is once again conspicuous by its absence. Despite all fine intentions and strategies such as those of Lisbon, protecting your own market is very fashionable in 2007. Accordingly, I cannot support the fellow MEPs who praise the compromise, or those who paint all kinds of horror scenarios and/or mention social dumping.

 
  
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  Claude Turmes (Verts/ALE). (DE) Mr President, we Greens are trying to assess liberalisation by the most impartial and ideology-free criteria possible. What will it do for the consumer? What will it do for working conditions? What will it do for the environment? My fellow MEPs Mrs Lichtenberger and Mr Jonckheer have already described the economic policy and social impact. But the present proposal is an environmental nonsense: at 8.00 the yellow mail van arrives, at 9.00 the blue mail van, at 10.00 the red mail van and at 11.00 the black mail van. None of the vans are being used efficiently: in other words, at a time when we are all talking of climate change, we are messing up the logistics of letter mail completely, and causing unnecessary traffic on the roads.

It is this blind addiction to liberalisation among conservatives, liberals and some of the social democrats that endangers the important European Project in the eyes of the public.

 
  
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  Etelka Barsi-Pataky (PPE-DE). – (HU) The full opening of European markets is an important step towards eliminating the remaining obstacles on the European single market. Parliament’s political agreement makes it possible for postal service providers who currently still enjoy a monopoly position to prepare for competition by the end of 2012. I congratulate the rapporteur on this agreement.

Our aim is for European legislation to make everyone competitive, so that this legislation may not represent a disadvantage to companies that will be in competition upon liberalisation of the market, but should instead open up new perspectives. In order to do so, the sources of income currently guaranteed by the directive now in force must be available to the companies and postal services in question until the end of the derogation period.

40 of my fellow Members and I have submitted an initiative, which decisively and unambiguously lays down what these entitlements are. I ask Parliament to support this initiative. On the other hand, we expect postal services to use this derogation period to become truly competitive, and to do so in such a way that this is not at the expense of smaller regions.

My fellow Member Mr Becsey has frequently called attention to the fact that the parliamentary agreement gives us the opportunity to put obligatory universal services on a more secure financial basis, and the citizens of Europe expect us to do so. I draw the attention of each one of us, therefore, to the fact that there is still a great deal for us to do even after the directive has been accepted.

 
  
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  Alain Hutchinson (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, against the current of the majority which seems to be emerging in this House, I should like to let the voice of the most humble of our fellow citizens be heard, the voice of those for whom public services constitute an important heritage, because they themselves have no heritage at all.

I should like to underline the harmful, disastrous effects brought about by the multiple liberalisations voted for in this Parliament in the areas, for example, of energy, transport and, today, postal services. Disastrous effects in the sense that liberalisation brings about major drawbacks for a large number of our fellow citizens, linked as much with a noticeable decline in the quality of these services since liberalisation – one only has to look at what is happening in Sweden – as with an almost systematic increase in the price of these services or again with the large numbers of public sector job losses, which are very meanly replaced with poor quality jobs.

That is the reason why, Mr President, I shall vote, along with the francophone Belgian Socialist delegation, against the liberalisation of postal services, while trying to improve the content of the proposal by means of amendments which could safeguard a part of these services, in particular the amendments which reintroduce the possibility, for each Member State, of choosing the model of the reserved area in order to finance the universal service from which every citizen should benefit.

 
  
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  Ona Juknevičienė (ALDE). (LT) I regret that we will not be opening up the postal market in 2009. Both consumers and service providers will be worse off for this. I am happy that this subject is now being widely discussed in Lithuania. I hope that in my country the postal market will be opened up well before 2013. I agree that the future of universal services should not be decided just by market forces alone; regulatory measures are needed. However, I do not think that temporary financing is necessary, especially if it is to be provided from state funds. Some people fear that, when the postal market is opened up, many people will be out of work. However, research and the experience of other countries shows that when the market is opened up, postal services expand. Most job positions will remain. New job positions will be created in the establishments of the new operators. I will vote for this document, which, although not bold, is nevertheless a step forward.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, I should like first of all to congratulate Mr Ferber both on the considerable efforts he has made for several months, and even several years, and also for being so open and willing to listen because, as he knows, we have not always shared the same points of view on this complex issue.

At a time when Parliament is preparing to vote on the last stage of postal liberalisation, that of mail weighing less than 50 grams, I should like to say I am pleased about what seems to me to be an advance for users. Competition is, indeed, synonymous with improvement in service, as is demonstrated by the efforts towards modernisation undertaken by several national postal monopolies since they have known that they will have to compete with new operators in their national market.

Competition is also synonymous with improvement in competitiveness for a sector with a turnover that is going down and which, if nothing is done, will collapse under the deficits and will ultimately lose all its appeal in the eyes of users. I do not want to give any specific example, but we all have in mind examples of countries where the public sector no longer operates properly the postal service to which users are entitled.

That being so, if tomorrow we confirm the last stage of liberalisation, competition is not for me an end in itself. It must remain a means of service to users, and I am glad that the text voted for by the European Parliament explicitly states that delivery of mail to every citizen of the European Union, wherever he may live, is an obligatory principle. I am also glad that the text explicitly states that the operator who is to take on the universal service, and who will therefore have increased costs, will be able to be financed by levies on the activities of its competitors who are not subject to the same obligations, that is, it will be able to be financed, if necessary, and why not, by public subsidies. This type of financing will be legal and every Member State will be able to have recourse to it. To what extent? That is the question that the second reading and the time until effective liberalisation must allow us to answer.

For my part, I repeat a request to the European Commission that I made in parliamentary committee and by means of a written question without receiving any answer: when does it intend to publish guidelines for calculating the cost of the universal service? Members of Parliament as well as Member States need to know what are the Commission’s directions as to what it does or does not regard as participating in the universal service. When all is said and done, we shall need clarification on this point before the second reading if we are to continue to support this text.

 
  
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  Zita Gurmai (PSE). – (HU) The European postal sector provides 1% of the EU’s GDP and employs close to 3 million people, and thus indirectly, through family members, affects some 5 million people. According to the study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, there are enormous differences among the various Member States in the level of preparedness for full liberalisation. Most in jeopardy are the new Member States’ universal postal service providers and those employed in the sector.

Rapid liberalisation can cause state postal operators considerable loss of business. In Great Britain, full market opening began on 1 January 2006, and within one year the Royal Mail has lost business to the amount of 2 million business letters to the competition. Numerous jobs can also be placed in jeopardy: in Germany, for instance, according to the director of the Deutsche Post, the opening of the market may cause as many as 30 000 jobs to be abolished in the event that it should lose a 20% market share of delivery for letters of low weight, a service on which it still has a monopoly.

Upon thorough consideration of the matter, it is no coincidence that the majority of the committees of the European Parliament do not consider 2009 as an acceptable date for full market opening, but propose instead a later date, with 2013 having been mentioned. It is clear that we need to support full extension of the four basic freedoms, including the Community principle regarding services, but an indispensable condition for this is that each Member State be given sufficient time, and a precise timetable that can be monitored by the Commission, in order to prepare itself at a technical level.

As regards liberalisation, moreover, in order to ensure free competition it is very important that all postal operators in the sector be subjected to a unified set of operating conditions, which guarantee that a unified set of qualitative criteria and operating conditions be applied to the new operators entering the market. Brian Simpson, thank you for your outstanding cooperation, and for having listened to the voices of the new Member States.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE). – (SV) I hope that you succeed, Mr Ferber. Better late than never! Swedish postal services were deregulated as long ago as 1993. What I would say to my fellow Members Mrs Lichtenberger, Mr Wurtz and other sceptics is that Sweden is an excellent example of an open postal services market that works. Every survey shows that customers are more than satisfied. The service has improved, and there are longer opening hours and greater accessibility. There are now 40% more village post offices than there were in 2001. Those of you in Belgium who have concerns might bear in mind that, in terms of surface area, Belgium can fit into Sweden 15 times over. There are almost 350 inhabitants per square kilometre in Belgium, compared with 22 in Sweden, where the topography is quite different. The post arrives on time even in my rectangular and sparsely populated country, and the state does not need to earmark extra money in order to ensure that services covering the whole country are properly provided.

New times require new solutions. Do not be afraid, my friends.

Finally, Amendment 79 is about honest reporting and about creating greater openness and clarity with a view to preventing unfair competition and cross-subsidy.

 
  
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  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, I have to accept it: the fight against the wholesale liberalisation of postal services can no longer be won, in the Council or here. I have therefore resigned myself to fighting for consideration to be given to the very particular situation of the post in my small country. In fact, our market is a very attractive catch and consequently especially coveted because its clientele represents 70% of the volume of mail with, on top of that, one of the highest demographic densities and a rate of 455 items – letters or parcels – handled per person per year, that is, one of the highest volumes in Europe. In addition to that there is a manpower cost that is more than double that of its competitors, for historical reasons that have nothing to do with any inefficiency of the post.

Econometric models show that in the event of full liberalisation, the part of the market served by our post would be reduced to a tiny fraction of 4%, releasing in excess of 940 jobs out of 1 500 postal jobs, most of which are untouchable because of the protected status of state employees. Tariffs would have to be increased by five times in order to finance the cost of 100% national coverage of national territory and to maintain deliveries five times a week, in the event of financing by subsidies from the State budget. At a total of EUR 36 million, they could risk scuppering the Maastricht criteria with regard to public deficit. It is therefore also justified to postpone the deadline for liberalisation until 2013 in my country’s case.

That is why I am asking you to vote for my group’s Amendment 62, which will make it possible to reduce the negative impact of full liberalisation in my country, at least for a certain time.

 
  
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  Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE). – (PT) Mr President, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, on the quality of his report, and also Brian Simpson for his efforts to reach a consensus on extending the timescale for market opening and ensuring the functioning and financing of the universal service.

The final phase of liberalisation of the postal services was a long way from achieving a competitive market where consumers, workers and firms stood to gain the most. The path adopted in the Commission’s proposal neither gave sufficient guarantee of the universality of the service, nor clarified the way in which it would be financed. I, therefore, supported Brian Simpson as to the need for the Commission to present studies on the costs of the public service obligations to be carried out in the national plans, and on the rules for financing the universal service, adapted to the different characteristics of the Member States and their regions, including the ultra-peripheral regions, where the cost of providing such services is usually higher.

Only after the Commission has given its approval should the opening of the postal service under 50 grammes go ahead, which is why I support the compromise of setting the date for December 2010, or December 2012, for the new Member States, or, as I would prefer for all, December 2011.

I also agree with other possibilities expressed through amendments still on the table in plenary since the opening up would be a bad step for employment, growth and the maintenance of the universal service unless the public service and its functioning are safeguarded. I reiterate, however, that the approval of a new date in tomorrow’s voting, based upon an undertaking that may carry some complementary amendments, is fundamental for the evolution of these services.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, ‘The postman has something for everyone’, as the advertisement for the Austrian postal service goes. The same can be said of the Ferber report. Liberalising the sector will have something for everyone if it is properly organised, and if it is guaranteed that the services provided will be for everyone, that mail will also be regularly delivered in the Alps and not just in the industrialised areas, if it is guaranteed that employees will have good and secure working conditions, and that universal services will also be financed in those areas that are not particularly lucrative.

The Ferber report in its present form has good answers to all these questions, which means sensible regulations for the postal service, its employees, and above all its customers. With this report, we will ensure that Europe has something for everyone!

 
  
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  Nicole Fontaine (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot stress it enough, we are producing legislation at this moment on the postal service for almost 500 million European citizens. Consequently, we must do it with both economic will and wisdom and properly assess the impact that our decisions will have on a population that is so vast and geographically diverse.

With economic will, because the principle of progressively opening up to competition all economic activities is not only inherent in the very notion of the internal market without internal borders, but it has been part of the founding Treaty of the European Union since 1957 and it is beneficial in many respects, as Christine de Veyrac has very rightly said. It is the duty and to the credit of the Commission to act in such a way that this fundamental principle is implemented without undue protectionism.

With wisdom, however, because the first objective of the Union in the very terms of the Treaty, is the ever closer union among our peoples and not only of our States. To advance, Europe must be perceived by its peoples as a plus and not just another constraint, without any apparent justification in their eyes.

I pay tribute to our rapporteur, Mr Ferber, for his careful attentiveness throughout this lengthy process, as well as to the draftsman, particularly of the opinion of our committee, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Hannes Swoboda. I should like the vote tomorrow to be in line with the recent European summit and to be exemplary in this respect. The future simplified treaty, decided upon unanimously by the Heads of State or Government, will, indeed, redefine competition as a means for the Union and not as an objective. It will make the protection of its citizens an objective for the Union. Therefore, it will recall the specificity of services of general economic interest giving pre-eminence to the general principle of free competition.

This is an excellent roadmap, because in all the geographical areas of our countries, as has been said many times, guaranteeing the quality of the postal service is a particularly sensitive subject for peoples, because it affects their personal, economic and social daily lives. Even if things have to change, we must make the necessary transitions with moderation and conscience.

As shadow rapporteur of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I think that the compromise proposed by Mr Ferber is balanced and I invite you, ladies and gentlemen, leaving aside dogmatisms, of whatever tendency, to support it with your vote.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to thank all Members of Parliament for their comments. With its vote, Parliament will be taking a clear and a strong stance. This should motivate the Council to come to a conclusion rapidly.

In closing, let me stress a few key points. Many Members raised the financing of the universal service as the principal challenge. We ought to remember that there is a big diversity of national situations and that there is not necessarily any net cost of the universal service. It is, therefore, necessary that the third Postal Directive gives the broadest possible flexibility to share out any unfair burden or organise compensation mechanisms. As far as we can see, the amendments do not aim to change this approach.

The Commission also notes the amendments relating to the date of full market opening. This question will also be essential in discussions with the Council. Some Member States want more time, other Member States have opened up their markets already or will do so before 2009 and a substantial number of Member States agree with the Commission’s proposal in this respect.

Parliament suggested to further request the Commission to provide assistance and guidance on the implementation of this directive after its entry into force but before 1 January 2009. The Commission has always been ready to assist Member States and has done so on many occasions. It has, however, done so autonomously, which, as Members will understand, is of particular importance in the framework of its responsibilities under Title VI of the EC Treaty. So let me be clear: the Commission will not leave Member States alone once a legislator has adopted this important directive.

The Commission wants the internal market for postal services to be a success. We want this for our customers and for the operators, and for the many thousands of postmen and postwomen who ensure that the post is one of our most cherished services. The Commission will do what it can within its powers to contribute to this.

A large number of amendments are on the table. I have arranged for an overview of the Commission’s position on the amendments to be handed over to Parliament’s services for inclusion in the report of proceedings(1). Once again, I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, and to stress the importance of taking this sensitive and important dossier forward.

Commission’s position on amendments by Parliament

A. Amendments that the Commission can accept, can accept in principle/in part and/or can accept subject to rewording:

1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 44, 46, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 60, 63, 65, 75, 76, 79, 80, 82, 83

B. Amendments that the Commission cannot accept:

5, 6, 7, 10, 19, 21, 22, 23,24, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 43, 45, 48, 50, 54, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 77, 78, 81, 84

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Wednesday.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE), în scris. – Apreciez ca extrem de favorabila sustinerea Parlamentului European pentru diversificarea activitatii operatorilor poştali prin furnizarea de servicii ale societăţii informaţionale, amendament la care ţin pentru că asigură atât supravieţuirea operatorilor tradiţionali de poştă în era digitală, cât şi posibile surse alternative de finanţare pentru serviciul universal.

Am convingerea că cel mai important factor de progres este concurenţa, aceasta conducand la o mai bună calitate a serviciilor şi la preţuri mai mici.

În România legislaţia prevedea deja data de 1 ianuarie 2009 pentru eliminarea zonei rezervate, iar în unele state membre liberalizarea totală a avut deja loc.

Textul aprobat de Parlament este un text de compromis care permite liberalizarea totală a serviciilor poştale, dar dă dovadă de solidaritate cu statele care au nevoie de mai mult timp pentru acest proces. Directiva propune şi solutii pentru finanţarea serviciului universal, fara însă să fixeze o modalitate de calculare a costurilor. Asteptam solutia Comisiei pana in septembrie.

Este esenţial ca serviciile poştale să fi accesibile şi disponibile chiar şi într-un cătun cu doar câteva familii, situat în vârf de munte sau pe o insulă, iar calitatea locurilor de munca din domeniul serviciilor postale sa fie asigurata si dupa deschiderea totala a pietei.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner McCreevy rightly pointed out that this is an important piece of European legislation. He also called upon the Council to be guided appropriately by these proposals. Unfortunately, the Council is not present in this important legislative matter. Perhaps it might be an idea to tell the Portuguese that today is already 10 July, and that they have had the Presidency since 1 July.

 
  
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  President. – Thank you for your speech, we shall send a telegram to Lisbon.

 
  

(1) See below

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