EU Sets Timetable for Postal Competition

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The European Union has adopted a directive that will gradually open EU postal services to competition over the next four years.

"Implementing the internal market for postal services is one of the major structural reforms that Europe needs," Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said.

Adoption of the directive by the Council of Ministers follows approval by the European Parliament in March.

Starting in 2003, member states will have to open to competition the delivery of letters weighing more than 100 grams (3.5 ounces). All outgoing cross-border mailings also will be opened to competition in 2003. Member states that need the revenue from cross-border mail to continue universal service could postpone this.

Starting in 2006, the delivery of letters weighing 50 grams (1.7 ounces) to 100 grams will be opened to competition.

Combined, these two weight restrictions will equal about 20 percent of the postal market.

The European Commission must prepare a report in 2006 on the expected effects of opening the market entirely in 2009. On the basis of that study, the commission would make a proposal to the European Parliament and Council of Ministers confirming, if appropriate, a completely open market.

The Federation of European Direct Marketing said it is pleased with the directive.

"The members of European Parliament and the national governments have now proved willing to create a legal framework for a genuine step-by-step liberalization of the postal market," said Alastair Tempest, FEDMA director general. "This is also a recognition of our view from the very beginning of the debate that an opening-up of the market is not only a necessity for improved services to the consumer, but also an opportunity to do so while maintaining the universal service."


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