EU postal liberalisation Directive is signed, sealed, delivered

Brussels, 31st January 2008 — The European Parliament effectively rubber-stamped the Postal Services Directive today, opening the door for postal liberalisation across Europe by December 2010.

Under the new EU law, postal services to all parts of the UK, including rural, isolated and island areas, are guaranteed. In the new competitive environment, Royal Mail and others will have the freedom to set prices based on the real cost of delivery and more competition will mean more choice for consumers.

The UK has in fact already liberalised the market, earlier than its European neighbours. Other countries will begin the process of liberalisation next year, enabling Royal Mail to compete abroad.

Conservatives were disappointed that last-gasp amendments to the Directive, ensuring the provision of a free postal service for blind and partially-sighted people, were not approved. Despite this, Transport and Tourism Committee member Sir Robert Atkins MEP, said the Directive was a positive step.

He said:

“It is wrong to place sole blame for post office closures in the UK on this new Directive - for a start the UK has already liberalised the market. Royal Mail has suffered because currently there is not a level playing field in the EU. It is also clear that the UK Government has not given Royal Mail the flexibility it needs to compete; it has handed business previously carried out by the Post Office to banks and building societies and shown a total lack of interest in finding ways to preserve our rural Post Offices.

“Post Offices are often housed within grocery or general stores in rural areas and when a branch closes local people are faced with losing the main - possibly the only - shop too. This is a very serious matter. More must be done to help rural communities, not harm them. The Government will have been responsible for the closure of more than one third of the entire Post Office network by the next election. It’s a second class service from a second class Government.”

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