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Charlie McCreevy

European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

Postal Services - Commissioner Charlie McCreevy's statement to the European Parliament

European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 10 July 2007

Mr President, Honourable Members,

First of all, I would like to warmly thank the Committee on Transport and Tourism and in particular the rapporteur, Mr Markus Ferber, for the excellent work they have carried out in the preparation of your Report on the Postal Directive. This is all the more impressive as the preparation involved five other Committees and nearly 600 amendments. Moreover the dossier is politically highly sensitive and technically complex.

Our proposal is based on sound preparation. It is not the implementation of abstract theories dreamed up in an ivory tower or based on ideological zeal. Market opening is not an end in itself, but: good for the Consumer, good for business and therefore for the whole economy.

After months of discussion there is always a risk that sight is lost of the original intention. Therefore let me just remind you what our proposal actually entails:

  • First and foremost, the Commission's proposal aims at guaranteeing a high quality universal service for all users throughout the European Union. Postal users and consumers are entitled to top class postal services. They must be accessible to all at affordable prices;
  • Secondly, based on detailed study and wide consultation, the Commission confirmed in its proposal 2009 as the target date for the abolition of any remaining exclusive rights and monopolies. Such exclusive rights and monopolies prevent competition and the positive effects it has on innovation, quality and prices;
  • Thirdly, our proposal confirms the availability of a broad range of financing mechanisms Member States may chose from to finance any net cost or unfair burden the universal service obligation may impose on the universal service providers;
  • Fourthly, the proposal allows for more flexibility in terms of pricing of postal services so that they can better reflect actual costs, while maintaining the possibility for uniform tariffs for consumer or single-pierce tariff mail. The Commission attaches great importance to the role postal services play for territorial and social cohesion. Uniform tariffs for consumer mail are a reflection of this. The proposal also reinforces consumer rights for example in terms of redress;
  • Fifthly, the proposal seeks to amend provisions concerning authorisation and licensing to reduce unjustified barriers to entry. The proposal also clarifies rules on the access to postal infrastructure;
  • Finally, the proposal provides for greater clarity on the role and independence of National Regulatory Authorities.

These elements build on the success achieved to date with the gradual opening of the market and will provide a framework that will allow the postal sector to develop its potential. It is truly the final step in a long process started the better part of two decades ago.

It is common knowledge that a "communications revolution" is taking place. This is a significant challenge for all of us in our daily lives; it poses a threat for those postal operators that fail to adapt. No reserved area can protect any postal operator from the competition from other means of communication. The only option is to reform and to adapt, to turn the challenge into an opportunity. This fast changing context makes it all the more necessary to finalise the reform process which started more than 15 years ago. The European Parliament has shaped this reform significantly at all stages. And the Commission is ready to assist so that the Internal Market on postal services can finally be accomplished.

Experience with market opening to date has been overwhelmingly positive. Efficiency, quality and performance have substantially increased. A high quality universal service at affordable prices is being provided throughout the European Union.

It is our joint responsibility that this continues to be the case. Full market opening is the right way forward. In the past months some have tried to portray market opening and the success of other postal operators as threats. However, most have now realised that these are challenges that we must face up to and that it is much more important to focus on how to face them. On the whole, the constructive approach prevails. This makes me optimistic that common ground on this important dossier can be found at the end of the day.

Let me conclude: This Directive constitutes an essential element of the Lisbon Agenda. The time is now ripe to give EU citizens the choice they are entitled to and expect. Mail users and consumers will be the main beneficiaries of the Directive. Market opening in 2009 will introduce controlled and regulated competition that will foster innovation, new business models and new services. It is not the question of dividing up the cake differently, or of introducing reform at the expense of the people working in the sector but it is the question of increasing the size of the market and letting all benefit from this.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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