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A plenary session full of successful debates

Jean-Paul Forceville, President of the POC, impartially and firmly led the debates on Wednesday 4 October 2023 during the 6th plenary session of the 4th Extraordinary Congress of the UPU, regarding the amendment of the articles of the Convention. Two issues were discussed: the range of postal products (Product Integration Plan) and the freedom of transit.

Evolution of the range of postal products

The Congress examined five amendments to the Convention to introduce a tracked service for small packets, abolish registered services for parcels, make M bags an optional service and abolish the advice of delivery.

The most structuring and sensitive decisions related to the tracked product and the registered services. They had already been submitted unsuccessfully to the 3 previous Congresses. The subjects were presented by Belgium (Nadine Devisch) and Canada (Jorge Gutierrez). In agreement with the Chair of this session, they made the tactical choice of first proposing to examine all the proposals as a package. This proposed method gave rise to an initial series of discussions and led to a secret ballot (in favour: 66 - against: 54 - abstentions: 2).

Although the debate once again focused on the need to adapt to market needs on the one hand and on the consequences for turnover on the other, a compromise proposal with adjustments to the dates of entry into force was adopted by consensus. The tracked product will become mandatory from 1 January 2025 and the registered services for parcels will be abolished from 1 January 2026.

Organising the freedom of transit

An amendment to the Convention was submitted to Congress as an urgent matter in order to start bringing the UPU Acts into line with the new customs and security requirements within the European Union, which came into force on 2 October. Despite the awareness-raising and lobbying activities carried out in advance by France and Spain with non-European countries, and the promises of support made by some countries, the balance of power did not augur well.

The EU ambassador in Riyadh intervened to explain the rationale behind the developments underway within the EU. Egypt, followed by the Africans, said it could not support the amendment because of its contradictions and unresolved technical difficulties. Russia and Australia each stressed the amendment's lack of clarity and the lack of an impact study on freedom of transit, a fundamental principle of the UPU.

Other countries also opposed the amendment: Argentina, Brazil, Belarus, UAE, New Zealand, Peru, etc.

When the session chairman (France) called on countries to support the proposal, only the 27 EU countries spoke up timidly.

The United States then proposed an amendment during the meeting, which would have needed to be supplemented if it was to stand up and not render the proposal meaningless. The legal advisor felt that this could not be done immediately in a few minutes.

The debate gave no hope of a consensus, so the vote was taken. The United States, supported by Russia, requested a vote on their amendment. At the request of Egypt, supported by the Emirates, Burkina Faso, Madagascar and Belarus, a secret ballot was held:

Initial proposal: 56 against - 36 in favour - 4 abstentions

Amendment proposed by the United States: 85 against - 17 in favour - 5 abstentions

No amendment to the Convention was therefore adopted concerning freedom of transit.

Satisfied with this plenary session, Jean-Paul Forceville declared "The Congress took decisions on the range of postal products long awaited by the market, while respecting the need for a transition period for some posts. The debate on freedom of transit has raised awareness of the need to adapt the UPU Acts to the new customs and security requirements. The POC will continue to work on this issue".


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