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Brussels, 17th December 2008

Antitrust: Commission opens infringement proceedings against Slovakia to ensure compliance with Commission hybrid mail decision

The European Commission has opened infringement proceedings against Slovakia by sending a letter of formal notice concerning its failure to implement a legally-binding Commission decision of 7 October 2008 requiring Slovakia to re-open its hybrid mail market to competition. The letter of formal notice is the first step in infringement proceedings under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. The 7 October decision found that Slovakia had illegally extended the monopoly of the incumbent operator, Slovenská Pošta, to the delivery of hybrid mail services, while this activity had until then been open to competition (see IP/08/1467). The decision required Slovakia to end this infringement. To date Slovakia has not informed the Commission of any action taken in this regard. Slovakia now has two months to reply to the Commission.

Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: "The Slovak authorities are obliged to amend their national legislation to bring it in line with the Commission's October decision and inform the Commission accordingly. In the meantime, private operators can rely on the Commission's 7th October decision to continue their hybrid mail business".

On 7 October, the Commission found that the amendment to the Slovak postal law reserving the delivery of hybrid mail to the incumbent postal operator, Slovenská Pošta, and preventing private operators from exercising their activity in this field, was illegal. The directly legally-binding Commission decision was based on EC Treaty rules on dominant market positions (Article 82) in conjunction with the rules (Article 86) requiring Member States to ensure that measures concerning public companies or companies to which Member States confer special or exclusive rights comply with all Treaty rules, including the antitrust rules. The re-monopolisation of these services harmed consumers and businesses which have invested in the hybrid mail market.

Slovakia had until 8 November to inform the Commission about the measures undertaken to ensure that hybrid mail services remain open to competition in the national legal order. To date, Slovakia has not informed the Commission of any measures taken to comply with the decision.

Slovenská Pošta and the Slovak Republic announced that they intend to appeal the Decision. However, such an appeal has no suspensive effect and cannot constitute a justification for not implementing the Decision.

The Commission decision of 7 October 2008 has direct effect and can be applied directly by national courts.

Slovakia has two months to reply to the letter of formal notice.

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