10 APR 2011
* PM's party calls on govt to opt out of EU postal directive
* Consequences of potential first ever opt-out not clear
* Non-EU Norway abides by bloc rules to get market access
By Wojciech Moskwa
OSLO, April 10 (Reuters) - Norway is set to launch last ditch negotiations with the European Union to amend the bloc's postal services directive and avoid its first ever opt-out of EU rules, the prime minister said on Sunday.
Non-EU member Norway is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Schengen customs zone because it abides by EU economic rules aimed at limiting state subsidies and creating a level playing field for firms from all EU states.
It has never exercised its opt-out clause, which would give the EU the right to suspend part of the EEA agreement and may jeopardise Norway's long-standing economic deal with Brussels.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg failed to convince his Labour party at a weekend congress to drop their opposition to the directive, which would end Norway's postal monopoly.
"We will start negotiations, failing that, we are ready to use the opt-out," Stoltenberg told public broadcaster NRK.
According to a Norwegian report about the consequences of opening up the heavily unionised postal market, about half a million Norwegians could get mail just one day a week -- compared to six days a week in the current state-backed system.
The report said the removal of heavy subsidies would make it uneconomical to deliver mail more regularly to every household in the country.
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