Press release

Postal services liberalisation: MEPs back market opening by 2011

Free movement of services - 31-01-2008 - 12:22
Plenary sessions
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Two bags of letters

MEPs support a full European internal market in postal services

The European Parliament confirms that remaining postal service monopolies should expire by 2011 - or 2013 for some Member States. In a second reading deal with Council, the European Parliament sticks to the compromise already endorsed by the Council on the opening up of EU postal services to competition.

In its common position, the Council had incorporated all major elements of the European Parliament's position at first reading. The European Parliament approved the common position without amendments.
Opening up of the market by 2011 or 2013
Among the key points was the date for market opening: by 2011, two years later than the Commission had proposed, with the possibility for Member States which joined the EU after 2004 or with a difficult topography, such as Greece to postpone market opening by a further two years to 2013.  The following Member States may postpone implementation until the end of 2012: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.  For Luxembourg, the Council agreed with the European Parliament first-reading position which  said that  Member States that acceded to the EU after the entry into force of Directive 2002/39/EC or Member States with a small population and limited geographical size could postpone to 2013.
Situation in the UK and Ireland
The market in the UK is fully liberalised.  There are now seventeen licensed operators in the UK, and these new market entrants are playing a crucial role in sustaining the mails market as a medium of communication.
Liberalisation in Ireland has already commenced and since the transposition of the Directives, the weight limit applying to postal items falling within the reserved area (and therefore not open to competition) has been reduced to 50g from 1 January 2006 with a price limit of two and a half times the basic tariff (currently 55c) for domestic and inbound international.  Outbound international mail was fully liberalised on 1 January 2004. The parcels market is already fully liberalised. To date Ireland has adopted a light regulatory approach to liberalisation so as to encourage and maximise the number of postal operators that might wish to enter the market. Competition in the sector is growing and at present there are 31 firms operating in Ireland with a postal service authorisation from the regulator. It is anticipated that with full market opening, many more operators will enter the market, leading to a competitive, vibrant sector.
A letter delivered and collected every day
The text makes clear that, in a liberalised market, letters should go on being both delivered and collected at least once a day, at least five days a week, for every EU citizen, in remote areas as well as cities. The funding for these universal services should be guaranteed if market players prove unable to provide such services profitably. In that case, Member States may decide to set up compensation funds.
The principle of reciprocity
MEPs also agree with Council on the principle of reciprocity: in order to avoid market distortion and unfair competition, those Member States having opened their markets should be able to refuse authorisation to operators still protected by a national monopoly in another Member State.
Safeguards for postal staff
Social considerations should be taken into account in this process of market opening, say MEPs. Member States will be able to reflect working conditions in their authorisation procedures. They will also have the right to impose conditions on the supply of postal services for non-economic reasons, such as compliance with employment conditions and social security schemes, where these are laid down in law or by a collective agreement negotiated between national social partners.
Not enough support for amendment on the blind and free services
An amendment proposed by Richard Howitt (PES, UK, Eastern, Labour) and others did not gain enough support to be included in the legislation. It read: "Given the importance of postal services for blind and partially sighted persons, it is appropriate to confirm that in a competitive and liberalised market there should be an obligation to supply free services for blind and partially sighted persons introduced by the Member States."
REF.: 20080130IPR20129