Total mail service liberalisation in the EU is not in the bag yet: A definitive stamp of approval looks likely to be deferred until 2011. The European Parliament is to vote on it this Wednesday.
Some five million jobs are in play, with deliverers and others feeling more and more an endangered species. The EU member states have failed to reach a unified position on when to open up the last area of protected service, on letters under 50 grammes.
Union demonstrators made their opposition plain at rallies in Strasbourg: “Two years more to continue and reinforce the mobilisation… well today is the first step. We’re saying: not in 2009, not in 2011, not ever. A quality public service must be maintained, and for that the means of financing it are needed. To do that we must keep the monopoly on mail up to 50 grammes.”
Parliamentarians of the left, right and centre have already expressed concern over the sector’s lack of preparation time. Conservative MEP Markus Ferber insists: “The monopolies are not capable of solving Europe’s postal problems. To do that, there has to be fair competition.”
Socialist deputy Gilles Savary is among those who argue that more time is needed to create a stable regulatory framework: “The risk that’s going to arise is one of creaming off the best. There’s going to be a big commercial fight to win over the major clients, especially in densely populated areas like capital cities. Naturally the areas that are harder to service are going to be left by the wayside, since they’ll be of no interest to anyone, and no service provider will bid for them.”
The postal directive vote is expected to have a huge impact. Brussels estimates the sector’s annual turnover at 88 billion euros, and with alternatives gaining ground, the Commission says swift, full liberalisation is essential, to make services cheaper, faster and more innovative.