Written Answers. - Postal Services.

Batt O'Keeffe

Question:

35 Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if he will make a statement on the compromise proposals to deregulate Europe's postal services; and the difficulties, if any, facing the postal services in Ireland as a result of these proposals. [3471/97]

The essential elements of the political agreement arrived at in the Telecommunications Council on 18 December 1996 are: the defining of the minimum universal service as the permanent provision of a postal service of specified quality at all points in the territory at affordable prices for all users including door-to-door deliveries five days per week as well as ensuring that the density of contact points is adequate for the needs of users; rules on quality of service for both national and cross-border mail, cost accounting and terminal dues — the arrangements by which postal operators compensate each other for delivery cross-border mail — which are related to costs; the designation of a national regulatory authority in each member state legally separate from and operationally independent of the postal authority; a reserved area of letter mail costing up to five times the basic tariff and weighing up to 350 grammes to support the universal service. Any mail outside these parameters will be liberalised when the Directive comes into force; that the Council and the European Parliament will decide not later than January 2000 on further gradual and controlled liberalisation of the postal sector on the basis of proposals to be made by the Commission before 1998 following a review of the sector — this further liberalisation to take effect from 2003.

This package presents no problems for the postal services in Ireland.