EU drives Post Office privatisation

The EU is entering the final stages of a 15-year process to open up all postal services to ‘competition’.

EU efforts towards privatising the postal market began in the early 1990s, as part of the push to create a European single market. The aim has been to abolish publicly-run monopolies and open them up to competition.

The first Postal Services Directive, adopted in 1997 (97/67/EC), and a second one, adopted in 2002 (2002/39/EC), succeeded in opening up a number of postal services, including the delivery of parcels and express services, but stopped short of imposing competition for the delivery of letters weighing less than 50 grammes.

Incumbent operators were entitled to hold onto this so-called “reserved area” – which represents more than 70 per cent of all letter post in the EU and around 60 per cent of all revenues from postal services – in order to keep up their role of “universal service provider” (USP).

But, on October 18 2006, Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy confirmed, in his  proposal for a third Postal Services Directive , the Commission’s intention to eliminate all remaining obstacles to a single postal market and to abolish this reserved area as of 2009 – a date already suggested in previous Directives.

Although the EU and the government have been clever enough to keep any evidence from the public the process follows the usual pattern. The EU tells the government what is to happen. The government then holds an enquiry which then produces a report proposing matching EU laws and hiding the fact that it is an EU project.

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