MEPs vote to end EU postal monopolies in 2011

19.06.07 @ 09:30

  1. By Helena Spongenberg

STRASBOURG - European lawmakers have voted in favour of liberalising EU postal services across the 27 member bloc in four years time, a move that could eventually mean the end national monopolies on delivering lightweight letters and postcards.

  • The end of national monopolies on postal services? (Photo: EUobserver.com)

MEPs meeting in the European Parliament's transport committee in Strasbourg on Monday night (18 June) have with an overwhelming majority (38 MEPs in favour and 6 against) voted to fully open up the postal market by 2011.

The European Commission originally proposed to have the full liberalisation in place by 2009 at the latest, but the two year postponement was a compromise among MEPs to make sure that postal operators adapt to the new market conditions.

"My feeling is that we have taken the interest of all member states on board," said German centre-right MEP Markus Ferber, who is behind the parliament report.

The liberalisation of the EU's €90 billion a year postal service sector is a controversial topic with around ten member states, including France, Italy and Poland, opposing the move saying it could mean severe job costs.

Under the committee's plan, adopted by MEPs from across the political spectrum, the final date for full liberalisation is 31 December 2010; New member states and those with specific topography, such as Greece with its islands, could have until the end of 2012.

Member states would be given until 1 January 2010 to notify the European Commission about how they would fund nationwide universal services – meaning full territorial coverage at an affordable cost.

EU states that have already fully liberalised their sector, such as Sweden and the UK, could in the meantime refuse to authorise competitors from EU states that do not plan to open their own mail sectors until 2011 or later.

On the other hand, 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 in order to safeguard employment.

The EU started out on the road to opening up the postal sector 15 years ago and the current proposal would finalise the process, meaning that national postal operators would lose their monopoly over the distribution of any type of mail, including letters weighing less than 50 grammes. Heavier mail is already liberalised.

The full parliament is expected to adopt the proposal with minor changes when they meet to vote on the subject in July. If adopted, EU capitals must also agree on the move and it could go to a further reading in the parliament.