01 June 2000

Rare bedfellows in European political dialectic, Britain and France joined forces on Tuesday to oppose European Commission plans to introduce greater liberalisation in EU postal services.

The Commission's proposal to open the market for letters weighing more than 50g was “neo-liberal” and “absolutely not acceptable", fumed French industry minister Christian Pierret; while Royal Mail chief executive John Roberts condemned it as going "too far too quickly" and leading "inevitably to higher prices”.

The UK Department of Trade and Industry also suggested that the Brussels plan could threaten jobs. "The government has always been in favour of liberalisation of the postal services market”, it said, “but we want to ensure the benefits of liberalisation are achieved in a way that does not undermine the universal service obligation".

At the recent EU summit in Lisbon, member states unanimously backed postal liberalisation as a priority for improving competitiveness. But, said Mr Pierret on Tuesday, the French government had worked hard to ensure there was no final date set for completely opening the market. France will assume the EU's rotating presidency in July and would try to reach a compromise.

Sweden has already fully opened its postal market to competition and Germany intends to follow suit by 2003.

News source: Financial Times [31-May-00]