Every five years, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) organises a World Congress to review its international conventions and adopt decisions on the world-wide operation of postal services. The Commission was present in force at the latest event in Bucharest, 15 September to 5 October 2004. At stake at the 23rd UPU Congress were a number of Community interests regarding the Internal Market for postal services and other EU policies, such as trade in services and competition policy.
As a specialised agency of the United Nations system, the Universal Postal Union is in charge of the regulation of postal services at international level. The postal sector is an area of shared Community competence, based on Directive 97/67/EC, as amended in 2002 (the “Postal Directive”), which aims to progressively develop the internal market of Community postal services and improve the quality of services provided.
This Congress was prepared in advance through a Commission Communication to Council, a Council Resolution, and an external study. Coordination was also undertaken at Community level with a view to ensuring respect for Member States’ obligations arising from trade agreements and from existing Community legislation, with EEA countries and other members of the Committee of European Postal regulators (CERP) and the Association of European Public Postal Operators (Posteurop).
The main Congress objectives as identified by the Commission were achieved, and due account was taken of Community positions throughout the negotiations and during votes. In particular, Member States and EEA countries presented a declaration stating that they will respect their UPU commitments in accordance with their obligations pursuant to EC Law and WTO/GATS.
The challenge for the Community in this Congress was to secure the short and long term compatibility between the developing EC and international postal regulatory models. Some key decisions in that regard can be highlighted:
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 the quality of the service provided, which will bring it closer to what is already the norm of Community postal regulation.
A new committee within UPU was created to reflect the increasing role of users and private operators in the development of the regulatory framework. This decision was supported by the Commission as it is in line with existing Community policy.
A quality of service objective for priority letter mail was decided (50% of priority letters must arrive within 5 days after the letter has been sent). This decision, albeit less ambitious than Community targets, is in line with the objective of improving the quality of postal services, which is an essential part of Community policy.
To prepare the direction to be followed in the next Congress, it was decided to study the possibility of fostering the separation between the functions of the regulation of the postal market and the provision of postal services, a principle included in the Postal Directive.
EU Member States obtained substantial representation in the elections for the main working Institutions of the UPU. The Congress was also an opportunity for the Commission to inform other countries of developments in Community postal policy and of the Commission’s activities in this area including the Postal Directive, sector studies and standardisation activities.
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