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Press release

Postal services should be opened up to competition by 2011, subject to strict conditions

Free movement of services - 18-06-2007 - 21:01
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Remaining postal service monopolies in EU Member States should expire by 31 December 2010, two years later than the 1 January 2009 deadline proposed by the European Commission, said the Transport Committee on Monday. Full market opening should mean that national operators will no longer have a monopoly on mail below the maximum weight of 50 grams, known as the "reserved area". The full Parliament will vote on the draft directive in July.

The two-year postponement was a compromise, backed by rapporteur Markus Ferber (EPP - ED), to get the proposal through. Some MEPs had argued that in parts of the EU, more time is needed to create a stable regulatory framework for ensuring that post continues to be delivered EU-wide at an affordable cost, and to enable postal operators to adapt to new market conditions.
MEPs in the committee nonetheless stress that the directive's implementation must remain subject to important conditions, including a "universal service" (full territorial coverage at an affordable cost) and rules on working conditions and collective bargaining.
Letters to be collected and delivered at least five days a week, for all EU citizens
Letters should go on being both delivered and collected at least once a day, five days a week, for every EU citizen, not just in Athens or London, but also in Crete or the Shetlands. This "universal service" (full territorial coverage) obligation should be retained, said the committee.
Funding universal service
If market players prove unable to provide such services profitably, then Member States may set up compensation funds, financed by service providers and/or user fees, to cover universal service costs. Alternatively, universal service providers could be compensated by the state. To ensure affordability, Member States may themselves decide upon the choice of financing mechanisms to be used.
No authorisation for "reserved area" monopolies to operate in liberalised markets abroad
To prevent any distortion of competition until markets are opened up to competition, the committee said that postal service providers from countries with a reserved area must not meanwhile be granted an authorisation to operate in countries, such as  Sweden, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and the UK, where the postal market has already been fully opened.
Some Member States have until 2013
New Member States and those with a particularly difficult topography or with numerous islands, the deadline for liberalising markets will be two years later, i.e. 31 December 2012, to allow extra time to find ways to a maintain universal service.
Collective bargaining and other conditions
The directive will not affect terms and conditions of employment, nor will it affect relations between social partners, including the right to strike and to take industrial action, said the committee.
MEPs also acknowledged Member States could impose conditions on the supply of postal services for non-economic reasons, such as ensuring the confidentiality of correspondence, the security of the network when transporting dangerous goods and complying with conditions of employment and social security schemes laid down by law and/or by collective agreement negotiated between national partners.
The Postal Services Directive (97/67/EC), which guarantees the citizen EU-wide postal services, originally set a target of opening up postal markets to competition by 2009, but required the Commission to come forward with new legislation to confirm or modify this date in 2006.  It is this further legislation which is now being considered by Parliament.  Under the existing Directive, the scope of the "reserved area" has been reduced from mail under 350 grams at the outset, to 100 grams in 2002, and is now 50 grams .
Transport Committee vote
The committee adopted its report on the proposed directive on the accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services 38 votes in favour, 6 against and no abstentions. Mr Ferber believed that the package as adopted was realistic, as it had the support of a majority of MEPs. "My feeling is that we have taken the interests of all Member States on board", he said.
Procedure: Co-decision, first reading -- Plenary vote: July 2007, Strasbourg
Committee on Transport and Tourism
In the chair : Paolo Costa (ALDE, IT)
REF.: 20070618IPR07944