International Postal Update – July 2008



Member nations are preparing for the 24th Universal Postal Congress, from July 23 to August 12 in Geneva. Delegates from the UPU’s 191 member countries will deliberate issues facing the global postal sector. The full Congress meets every four years, and the agendas were decided in meetings this spring. The UPU Congress will consider actions on 450 proposals, including amendments, from member nations. Some have proposed expanding the UPU’s mission to address such areas as terrorism, money laundering, trafficking in illicit medicines, and internet fraud. The major goal for the Congress is adoption of a World Postal Strategy to guide member nations over the next four years.

The UPU is also expected to consider a proposal defining the postal Universal Service Obligation. Interpretations of the USO vary widely between member states. The Congress is also expected to make a strong move toward the Internet with the UPU’s so-called “dotPOST,” a domain coordinated and controlled by national posts around the world.


Deutsche Post is holding “exploratory” talks about a sale of Deutsche Postbank. Postbank has 14.5 million customers and 850 branches throughout Germany. One analyst predicted that Postbank would fetch a price of as much as 11 billion euros. Deutsche Post currently maintains a 50 percent plus one share stake in Postbank.


A new program to introduce 6-digit postal codes to Ireland is moving forward, bringing a long-anticipated move toward a standardized system of addressing mail. Geo-coding is extremely useful in modern communications and transportation systems, allowing virtually any kind of data to be uniformly tied to a precise location. Most of the EU already uses some form of mail geo-coding, but some say the UPU-sponsored zip code system is already old fashioned — an “intermediate technology” — and should be shelved in favor of more sophisticated OCR (optical character recognition) models which can absorb and process an entire address. AN Post, the commercialized Irish postal service, has cooperated with the government in setting up the coding, but has resisted being saddled with the full costs of conversion.


Hungary, together with eleven other states, has requested a delay in liberalization of national postal markets set by the European Commission for 2009. At a meeting in June in Luxembourg, opponents of liberalization said the deadline for complete competition was still too soon. They noted that the former national mail services of Germany and France, in addition to the Hungarian Post (Magyar Posta Zrt), still have monopolies on mail weighing less than 50 grams. The Commission’s deadline has come under attack from trade unions and some EU governments for pushing universal service on incumbent carriers while taking away revenue streams that incumbents claim support such service. Magyar Posta currently derives 80% of its mail revenue from such deliveries.

EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy criticized states for foot-dragging on liberalization of their postal markets at a conference in Brussels in late June. “I find it particularly unacceptable that Member States who were to the forefront in pressing for open markets would now back away from the reforms they have benefited from,” said McCreevy in a speech at the High Level Conference on Postal Market Reform. He also called upon Member States to develop strong postal regulators and asked for greater cooperation with and between regulators.

International Postal Update