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UPU (Universal Postal Union)

The role of UPU

Established in 1874, the

The UPU is composed of 192 member countries. It is the primary forum for cooperation between governments, designated postal operators, national regulatory authorities and many other postal-sector stakeholders.

In addition to maintaining a genuine universal postal network – with physical, financial and electronic dimensions – it establishes the rules for international mail exchanges among its member countries and makes recommendations to modernise products and services, stimulate mail volume growth and improve the quality of service for customers.

There are more than five million postal employees around the world and 670,000 post offices. Postal services worldwide annually process and deliver an estimated 380 billion letter-post items and 6.1 billion parcels. They also provide valuable financial services aimed at narrowing the financial inclusion gap as well as electronic services, meeting the evolving needs of customers worldwide.

The Universal Postal Union Congress 2012 (Doha)

The Congress of the UPU is the supreme authority of the Union and consists of plenipotentiary representatives of its member countries. It takes place every four years. The 25th Congress of the UPU took place in Doha (Qatar) from 24 September until 15 October 2012 (the 24th Congress took place in Geneva in 2008).

From a European perspective the 25th UPU Congress in Doha has been very successful:

  • Congress adopted unanimously a resolution granting the EU formal/de iure observer status (this follows Conclusions of the Council of the EU of 7 June and a proposal submitted by all 27 Member States to the UPU). On this basis the EU will now have a formal role in all UPU bodies, even though it will still not be a member of this UN specialised agency.
  • Following a proposal by EU Member States it amended the UPU convention introducing advance electronic information as a future requirement for postal traffic (excluding postcards and letters). Again with an overwhelming majority. In the coming four-years-cycle it will have to be ensured that this is implemented and EU will play an important role in this together with other UPU member countries.
  • A new Terminal Dues system (which regulates payments between public operators for the conveyance of cross border mail) was approved. The new system will increasingly be based on the costs and be linked the quality of the service provided, which may eventually bring it closer to what is already the norm of EU postal regulation.
  • A new regular conference on postal regulation was established; giving independent regulators a more prominent role.

Key objectives were achieved, and due account was taken of EU Acquis throughout the negotiations and during votes. Furthermore, Member States and EEA countries presented a declaration stating that they will respect their UPU commitments in accordance with their obligations pursuant to EU Law and WTO/GATS.

A lot of work remains to be done so to implement the Doha Postal Strategy and the amendments to the UPU acts in the coming four years.

The next (26th) UPU Congress will be held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2016. The EU now having a formal role is ready to actively participate in this process.

CERP (Committee of European Postal Regulators)

CERP brings together representatives of ministries and regulatory authorities of 46 States including EU Member States, Candidate countries, the EEA and Eastern European countries. It is an important network of European regulatory authorities and ministries in the postal area and as such an essential partner for the European Commission particularly when it comes to international issues (even) beyond the EU.

The Commission participates and cooperates closely with CERP in its main activities and this in particular when it comes to the preparation of UPU issues.

GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services)

The EU aims to update and improve international rules to ensure fair trade and to harness globalisation and promote greater trade with WTO member countries. The Community and its Member States would like to see further trade opportunities for the postal sector. Towards this end, the Community and its Member States has made a conditional offer on postal services, consistent with the market openings achieved in the Community following the Postal Directive (Directive 97/67/EC

The offer in short:

On postal and courier services, foreign operators’ (i.e. non EU) access to markets, which have already been opened to competition by the first postal Directive of 1997 (97/67/EC) – notably parcels, newspapers, express delivery, letters above 350 grams, is further reconfirmed and extended to the fast-growing market of the 10 new EU Member States. In addition, the EU is ready to subscribe internationally to basic pro-competition principles (which already exist in the EU), provided that others are ready to do the same.

Read the full textpdf Choose translations of the previous link  of this revised conditional offer.

To assist further progress under the GATS process, the Commission has proposed an updated definition for postal services PDFEnglishFrançais under the GATS European Communities Communication on GATS 2000, postal/courier services.

Some members of the WTO agreed on a common proposal on Postal and courier issues, the so called scheduling guidelines PDFEnglishFrançais.

With the same aim in mind, the EC proposed that WTO members consider a number of additional commitments for postal and courier services in order to give full effectiveness to market access (Communication from the EC and their Member States – Postal/Courier: Proposal for a Reference Paperpdf Choose translations of the previous link  of 13/01/2005).

Further information on the GATS process in general can be found on the Commission’s DG Trade or at the WTO website.

Postal services in bilateral trade negotiations

The EU is firmly committed to the promotion of open and fair trade with all its trading partners. In addition to global-level negotiations within WTO known as the “Doha Development Agenda”, the EU conducts a number of negotiations with countries and regions around the world.

The EU has successfully concluded a number of important trade agreements with trading partners and is in the process of negotiating agreementspdf with many more. Postal services form an important part of these both in terms of regulatory provisions and commitments made.