Thursday 4 October 2007
The search for a political agreement on this issue comes 3 months after the European Parliament voted in favour of a delay of the liberalisation; 2011 instead of the Commission’s preferred date of 2009. As the postal market has already largely been liberalised, the discussions evolved around specific sensitive areas such as letters in the ‘reserved area’ (weighing less than 50 grammes). The deal reached at the ministerial council reflects the first-reading agreement of the European Parliament. Not only did they agree on the date set by the EP (2011), it was also agreed that minimum pay provisions and workers’ right to strike remain under national control and will not be affected by European law.
With regard to the Universal Service Obligation (USO), it was decided that Member States can dictate uniform tariffs between rural and urban areas and that they have to guarantee sufficient access to postal offices as well as minimum delivery requirements. The funding of the USO will also be arranged by Member States. In order to avoid unfair competition, the reciprocity clause is maintained in the current proposal, meaning that postal operators in countries with a reserved area are not allowed to enter fully opened markets in other countries.
The possibility to delay the liberalisation process also remains included in the proposal. However, this does no longer only apply to geographically complicated Member States (Greece) and new EU Member States (CEE) but also to Luxemburg, the only country opposing the decision.
The postal industry employs more than 1 million people in the EU. The developments at European level hugely affect the men and women working in Berlin, Crete, Scotland, Northern Finland, in other words, in the entire Union! Eurofedop represents the workers in this sector and has always been actively involved in the fight against unfair competition. The liberalisation process will take place, but it is of the utmost importance to remain vigilant with regard to the consequences for the ones delivering the service. The USO is another concern; will all citizens in the EU indeed have access to mail services 5 days a week, no matter what village, region, island or mountainous area? It remains to be seen if the market will be able to handle this complicated industry.