Members of a key committee in the European Parliament are set to demand a delay in reforms as plans to subject Europe’s postal sector to full liberalisation by 2009 sparks fury among postal workers across the continent.
Finding a compromise
The Parliament’s Transport committee will meet on 4 June 2007 to debate how a compromise can be reached on reforming the EU’s postal sector ahead of a decisive plenary vote in July.
The meeting comes after five other Parliament committees consulted in the procedure came out against core elements of the Commission’s proposal, including the 2009 deadline, the abolition of the reserved area as a mechanism for financing the universal service obligation (USO) and the lack of protection for the two million workers directly dependent on the postal sector.
Although Markus Ferber, the German liberal MEP appointed to steer the proposal through Parliament, was initially supportive of the Commission’s plan, he is now seeking common ground that would gather support from all MEPs in a plenary vote in July.
“The proposal of the Commission was a serious one but, as we are learning now in Parliament and Council, there’s only a minority in favour,” Ferber said. (For full interview, click
The compromises he will be presenting to his committee next week include:
31 December 2010, rather than 1 January 2009, as the final deadline for complete market opening, with possibilities of extending the deadline for an additional two years for:
- new member states, and;
- countries with topographical difficulties, such as Greece.
- The scope of the USO will remain largely the same as in the Commission’s proposal in an attempt to bridge the gap between those calling for it to be widened and those that say it should be narrowed.
- Introduction of provisions aimed at harmonising minimum social standards for postal workers across Europe, similar to what was done in the Services Directive, to avoid a “race to the bottom” as companies compete in the market.
- The obligation for the Commission to issue detailed guidance on how to calculate the net cost of the universal service to ensure a level playing field among operators and avoid violations of competition law.
Postal workers across Europe will carry out a mass strike action on 6 June in what they say is an attempt to “save the universal postal service in Europe”, amid fears that rapid liberalisation will destroy public operators, resulting in a weaker customer service and big job cuts.
Postal unions have also called for the resignation of Commissioner McCreevy, accusing him of “failing to ensure funding for a universal postal service to citizens in his rush to de-regulate Europe’s post”.