Marketers push for modernisation of European postal systems

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BRUSSELS -- Europe's direct marketers have launched a last ditch attempt to persuade the Council of Ministers to impose a strict timetable for liberalisation of postal services throughout the Union.

An intransigent minority of countries including France and Germany continues to block liberalisation and the effects of this is damaging for direct mail, argues Alastair Tempest, director general of the Federation of European Direct Marketing (FEDIM).

"The postal sector must rapidly be given the modern tools in regulatory reform necessary to deal with the inevitable and sweeping competition which electronic substitution will create in the coming years," he says. FEDIM argues that by imposing a deadline of 2001 for open competition, as recommended by the European Commission, the European Union would stimulate economic activity.

The January 1998 deadline for telecoms liberalisation is having just such an effect in that industry and the post should keep up, argues Tempest. "Europe should be promoting the integrated development of all aspects of global commerce," he says. "Sending a letter from Ausburg in Germany to Brussels takes just as long today as it did 500 years ago," says one MEP, Marcus Ferber. "It is incredible."

"The rapid modernisation of postal services should be an absolute priority for all EU member states," reads a statement from Brussels lobby, the Postal Users Group to ministers preparing to vote on the issue. It goes on to warn ministers that failure to liberalise the market will result in the press, direct mail and mail-order becoming "cash cows of inefficient postal monopolies at a time of growing non-print competition in electronic media".

National ministers in charge of post in their respective countries meet on Thursday in Brussels to vote for a third time on the postal services directive.

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Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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