The European Union's plans for the next phase of postal reform, though expected to be divisive, are unlikely to encounter the stormy resistance that initially greeted the regulation to allow cross-border competition in services, or the proposal to open access to sea-ports. The staggered approach to liberalisation, wherein the upper limit for state monopolies in postal service was reduced from consignments of 350 grams to 100 (in 2003) and then to 50, may have prepared the ground for further reform. The new plan envisages removal of restrictions by 2009 in the last slab, which alone is said to account for half of Europe's mail. At the centre of the new measure is the guaranteed provision of services to rural and other under-served areas. The response to the new proposals among EU member-states has inevitably varied, depending on the level of domestic reform. At the moment, only the smaller countries seem to be holding out.

A common thread running through the EU's economic reforms is the general mood in favour of change that has eventually caught up with the countervailing pressures for continuing with the status quo. This growing realism is the result of an informed public debate over the trajectory of reforms in the face of the imperatives of globalisation. The course followed on postal reforms may be the way forward to realise the EU's ambitious Lisbon Agenda to improve overall competitiveness and to create 600,000 jobs by 2010.