European Commission - Press release
State aid: Commission adopts a package of four decisions concerning the incumbent postal operators in Germany, Belgium, France and Greece
Brussels, 25 January 2012 – The European Commission has adopted a package of four decisions concerning state aid granted by Germany, Belgium, France and Greece to their respective incumbent postal operators. In two of them – Bpost and Deutsche Post – the Commission has ordered the recovery of incompatible aid.
Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "These decisions further shape the Commission's state aid policy in the postal sector. Our ultimate aim is to prevent distortions of competition which would hinder citizens and businesses from enjoying the benefits of full market opening that will soon be completed in all Member States."
In these four decisions, the Commission has applied the same rules and principles.
The Commission approved a compensation of € 5.6 billion granted by Germany to Deutsche Post from 1990 to 1995 to cover the cost of the universal postal service. However, the Commission ordered Germany to recover from Deutsche Post incompatible aid in the range of € 500 million to € 1 billion resulting from the combination of high regulated prices and pension relief subsidies. This aid placed Deutsche Post in a better position than its competitors (see MEMO/12/37).
The Commission approved a pension relief of €3.8 billion from which De Post-La Poste (now Bpost) benefited through the Belgian pension reform of 1997, aligning the social contributions paid by Bpost for its statutory personnel with the private sector. However, the Commission ordered Belgium to recover €417 million of incompatible aid from Bpost, since the yearly compensations received in the period 1992-2010 for public service missions resulted in some overcompensation (see MEMO/12/38).
The Commission reaffirmed its objective of high quality public services by approving €1.9 billion aid paid by France to La Poste to finance part of the cost of the public services of delivering press items to citizens and of presence in remote areas for the period 2008-2012 (see MEMO/12/36).
Finally, the Commission approved aid of €52 million granted by Greece to Hellenic Post (ELTA) to contribute to financing the modernisation of its public postal services until 2021, which will broaden the range of services offered on the whole territory of Greece, in particular in its peripheral regions (see MEMO/12/39 ).
The aim of state aid control in the postal sector is to preserve and enhance the benefits of market opening for citizens and businesses.
In 2009, the EU's postal sector accounted for an annual turnover of €72 billion, while representing 0.62 % of the EU's GDP and about 1.5 million jobs in the EU. Creating scope for competition in this sector through regulatory reform and competition policy contributes to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 agenda for sustainable growth in a resource efficient and more competitive economy (see MEMO/12/43).
EU Directives have gradually opened the postal market for competition. In this process, the requirements of a universal postal service and of further public services that Member States may wish to define have been taken into account. Full liberalisation was achieved in 16 Member States at the end of 2010 and will be completed in the remaining 11 by the end of 2012. It allows new operators and innovative services to appear, thus promoting competition in terms of quality and price of postal services (see MEMO/12/43).
In order to achieve a level playing field in the internal market, it is crucial that postal operators, in particular its incumbents, neither obtain undue advantages nor suffer undue disadvantages in comparison with competitors.
EU state aid control allows Member States to compensate, but not to overcompensate, postal operators for the net cost of public service missions. Similarly, where postal incumbents - as a legacy of their past as State administrations - are disadvantaged because of higher pension costs for civil servants which are not incurred by their competitors, Member States can provide relief to the extent that postal incumbents are not thereby put in a better position.
State aid control in the postal sector pursues a threefold goal: to ensure a level playing field for postal operators, to promote competition between them and to ensure that high quality postal services can continue to be delivered at affordable prices.