The European Union’s mail markets will be opened up to full competition from the start of 2011. This is after the European Parliament’s final approval to liberalise the handling of letters of up to 50 grams – the final protected domain.
EU states will formally rubberstamp the move within weeks, paving the way to further inject competition into national postal services. Twelve of the EU’s 27 states, however, mainly in eastern Europe along with Greece and Luxembourg, will be given two years’ delay.
The plans have sparked protests by postal workers in many EU nations, especially France. They fear job losses in a sector that employs 5.2 million people. Safeguards on working conditions and collective pay bargaining were included in the reform.
The plan contains several options for EU states to ensure that regular collections and deliveries are to a high standard in all parts of a country, including rural areas. Britain, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Sweden have already opened up their markets to full competition.
Some 135 billion letters are delivered in a year. Most of them are from businesses, such as bank statements.