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IP/02/1735

Brussels, 26th November 2002

Postal services: 1997 Directive has delivered improved service quality

The key objectives of the 1997 postal services Directive, namely the safeguarding of the universal postal service in the Member States and the improvement of the quality of postal services, have been met according to a report just issued by the European Commission. The report notes that Directive 97/67/EC has contributed to a safe, gradual and controlled opening of the postal market at a time of rapid market development. Overall employment levels in the sector have slightly increased.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "This report highlights the major benefits for users and operators in Member States that the Directive has brought. It has safeguarded the universal postal service and helped improve the quality of postal services. We now need to build on this platform and complete in a gradual and controlled manner the Internal Market for postal services, in line with the provisions of the new Postal Directive adopted earlier this year."

Directive 97/67 put in place a European postal regulatory framework based upon the universal availability of affordable services to all EU residents. The Directive required the Commission to make a report on its application to the European Parliament and Council.

This report shows that the Directive has been implemented correctly in most Member States and that it has had a significant and positive impact. However, where there has not been full and proper implementation, the Commission has initiated infringement proceedings, for example most recently against Belgium and France for lack of separation between the regulatory body and the ownership of the national post office (see IP/01/1139 and IP/02/932).

The universal postal service has been safeguarded in all Member States and the quality of postal services has improved at a time of limited but significant market opening. Universal postal services have often been provided at levels above the requirements of the Directive, whilst many Member States, for example Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, have opened their markets further than the minimum set out in the Directive.

There has been harmonisation of regulation across the EU. Universal service providers have mostly moved from public to corporate bodies and, in some cases have begun to be privatised. This has led to consolidation in the market and a greater emphasis on profitability, cost efficiency, customer focus and innovation. However, though there has been some streamlining and restructuring, as in other industries, in general employment levels have been sustained, with employment in the postal sector growing overall by 4.3% from 1995-2000.

The report concludes that, in light of the new Postal Directive 2002/39/EC adopted in May 2002 (see IP/02/671), there are no specific recommendations to be made at this time for further harmonisation of the regulatory framework.

Under the new Directive, Member States will have to open up to competition the following market segments:

  • from 1st January 2003:

    • delivery of letters weighting more than 100gr (or costing more than three times the price of a standard letter)

    • all outgoing cross-border mail (but Member States which need the revenue from this market segment to enable them to continue to provide their universal service could reserve it from competition)

  • from 1st January 2006:

    • delivery of letters weighing more than 50gr (or costing more than two and a half times the price of a standard letter).

The new Directive requires the Commission to complete, in the course of 2006, a study assessing, for each Member State, the impact on universal service of full accomplishment of the Internal Market for postal services in 2009. On the basis of the results of that study, the Commission would make a proposal to the European Parliament and Council confirming, if appropriate, full accomplishment of the Internal Market for postal services in 2009 or determine any other step.

The full text of the Commission's report can be found at:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/en/postal/stud/index.htm


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