Parliament greenlighted divisive mobility rules

Several peripheral countries already declared readiness to file a lawsuit before the ECJ

During the European Parliament sitting in Brussels, MEPs voted on Wednesday the new amendments to the divisive Mobility Package I. All three motions to scrap the Council’s position on posting on drivers, driving time and rest periods and market access and cabotage were rejected, the EP announced late in the evening. Thus the new rules, which have been provisionally agreed with the Council in April, are considered adopted. 

This came as no surprise, given that the divisions between the so-called peripheral countries, mostly from CEES, and the states from the 'centre', are going back over three years. The three adopted texts, which are wrapped up with the plausible aim to improve working and resting conditions for drivers, in fact threatens the livelihoods of more than 300,000 families in the EU, putting an end to tens of thousands of hauler businesses in this part of the EU.

For a long time, the battle has been fought on many levels, one of which is the European Parliament.

Despite the arguments of MEPs from these countries, the camp defending the package remained steadfast. Given the abrupt disregard for the arguments against the three texts, national selfishness and protectionism was always prevailing, as the countries that are not affected negatively by the reform are far more and ensured easily a majority in every vote.

The branch societies also took important part in the battle, but their arguments remained unheard as well. A month ago, before the remote vote at the EP TRAN Committee, when the texts were adopted opening the way to the final second reading in plenary, transport industry organisations from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Romania, asked MEPs for repealing of divisive texts in Mobility Package I. They concretely envisaged the rules which require the drivers to return to the country where their vehicles are registered - at least once every four weeks regardless of where they are located, and for the trucks to return to the country in which the company is registered - at least once every eight weeks.

This contradicts the idea of the objectives of the European Green Deal, by requiring vehicles to return every eight weeks, and runs counter to fundamental freedoms in the Single Market, requiring drivers to return to the Member State of establishment, the letter underlines. The transport organisations also highlight the changed context and complicated situation caused additionally by the Covid-19 crisis.

They emphasised that the obligation for a specific driver's return location violates the fundamental right to free movement guaranteed for all EU citizens.

The requirement to return the trucks to the country of registration of the company every eight weeks is described as an “extremely restrictive and discriminatory measure”, which will disadvantage companies from the periphery of the EU. The letter points out the negative consequences for the environment and the congestion of roads and borders in Europe due to the excessive movement of trucks. In support of this claim, the position cites estimates that almost half of the vehicles will have to return without load to the respective countries.

The package will substantially impinge upon the proper functioning of the EU Single Market, wrote on 29 June in a letter to the Members of the European Parliament the ministers of foreign affairs / European affairs and transport of nine countries - Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Romania. Taking into account the negative impact of the provisions of the Mobility Package on the EU Single Market and on European ambitions in the context of the Green Deal, they called on the EP “to fix” the current version of the texts. The ministers stressed that the package created extraordinary divisions among the Member States in the Council and nine countries were against the provisional interinstitutional agreement.

Several peripheral countries already declared readiness to file a lawsuit in Luxembourg before the Court of Justice of the European Union. Probably in the autumn will be ready the impact assessment on the two areas in the Mobility Package I, which the Commission announced earlier this year, and depending on the results, the executive can come up with a new proposal on the controversial texts, before the rules for the return of the vehicles enter into force after two and a half years.

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