|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.38, 18.10.01, p25|
This week's deal by EU telecom ministers to open up more of the Union's postal markets to competition could still be scuppered by the European Parliament, a key MEP has warned.
Brian Simpson, postal spokesman for the assembly's socialist group, said it was not a foregone conclusion that the agreement - seen as a triumph of Belgian presidency diplomacy - would be rubber stamped.
The MEP, who sits on the transport committee, said his fellow members would welcome most parts of the deal. But he said there could be dissent over the 100 and 50 gram weight limits for the letter post monopoly chosen for the first two stages of market opening in 2003 and 2006. "My initial reaction is we still have a problem with 50 grams in 2006. My gut reaction is that there is still a way to go yet as far as getting committee to agree it because of the two steps."
The Parliament had previously demanded a move to 150 grams and 100 grams in the same time-frame, as part of a gradual approach to liberalisation of one of the EU's most politically sensitive industries.
This was to guarantee that national post offices still generated enough cash to pay for some loss-making parts of their 'universal service' remit - such as deliveries to remote rural areas or islands. "The reason for the initial step to 150 grams was that it wasn't just a nice figure. It was the level where operators could offer universal service in transition to liberalisation," said Simpson. "If there is a qualified majority that says 'no, it should be 150 grams in 2003 and 100 grams in 2006' then it enters into conciliation and the whole ball game is up for renewal. "It is now a question of seeing how people react, not just in my group but other people who supported us overwhelmingly last time." He was speaking after German Christian Democrat rapporteur Markus Ferber indicated that he would not seek amendments to the deal when the issue is debated.
Ferber said the key part of the deal was an agreement that the Parliament would get a chance to discuss the next stage of liberalisation - expected to be put in place 2009. Previously, the Belgian presidency had backed an automatic step to full liberalisation if a Commission study showed that it would not harm universal service.
Simpson said he did not believe Liberal MEPs, who hold the balance of power between socialists and the centre right, would oppose the deal. "They would liberalise fresh air if they got a chance," he said. Despite Simpson's fears that the deal struck by governments could go too far, private sector operators were lamenting ministers' failure to set a final date for full liberalisation. They said this would stop firms from investing in new services, denying customers better and cheaper services.
Mark van der Horst, EU affairs director with the US's United Parcel Service said: "Whatever people say about adding grams, this is not liberalisation."
The recent deal by EU telecom ministers to open up more of the Union's postal markets to competition could still be scuppered by the European Parliament, a key MEP has warned. Brian Simpson, postal spokesman for the assembly's socialist group, said it was not a foregone conclusion that the agreement would be rubber stamped.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|