Transport ministers from nine EU countries are calling upon the European Parliament to make adjustments to the first Mobility Package in order to take into account fair competition, EU climate policy objectives and the single market, as well as new socio-economic realities post COVID-19.
The following opinion article is signed by transport ministers of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania (full list at the bottom).
The first Mobility Package is a vivid example of a law which will further weaken a troubled EU economy.
After three years of discussions on how to reform international road transport legislation, the EU intends to rubberstamp legislative provisions which have been processed in a chaotic way, lack a thorough impact assessment, and which are opposed by one-third of Member States. Proposed provisions disrupt EU single market by introducing artificial administrative barriers. At the same time, they go against the EU’s ambitious climate goals, a fact that has been recognised by the Commission.
Moreover, the Mobility Package was prepared in a completely different socio-economic reality. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the business environment internationally in an unprecedented way, deeply affecting road transport. A significant number of transport undertakings are expected to suspend or even close down operations. This will lead to a reduction in the supply of transport services to the detriment of EU citizens and the economy. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation instead of supporting the sector’s recovery, imposes restrictive solutions.
The European Parliament intends to agree on the provisions containing an obligation for vehicles to return regularly to the country of establishment of the haulier or restrictions on cross-trade and cabotage operations. It involves the “4-day cooling-off period” during which the same vehicle cannot be used between successive cabotage operations in the same country. Studies have shown that these solutions will generate at least 3 million tonnes of additional CO2 emissions per year in the EU, which will affect particularly transit countries.
The compulsory return of a vehicle will effectively exclude some Member States from the EU Single Market and impose significant and possibly insurmountable barriers to others. Induced returns of vehicles will certainly lead to increased congestion and, what is particularly distressing, to the deterioration in road safety – that would be contrary to the EU’s transport policy, which puts reduction of road fatalities and serious road accidents high on the agenda.
The proposed legislation is hardly contributing to improvement of drivers’ working conditions. With the new law in force, the drivers will be deprived of their freedom to choose the place where they want to take a rest after 3 or 4 weeks of work. Furthermore, the ban on taking a regular rest in the cabin of a vehicle is also problematic, taking into account the COVID-19 requirements to keep social distance, as well as lack of adequate accommodation places and safe parking facilities in the EU, which was also confirmed in the EC’s assessment.
The new law will not ensure competitiveness of the European road transport in the global context. Its provisions will put third country hauliers at a competitive advantage, as they will not be subject to the restrictive EU legislation.
Furthermore, the Package foresees application of posting regime to some transport operations excluding others. Such distinction is discriminatory to some transport undertakings performing primarily cross-trade and cabotage operations. As a result, they will be led to bankruptcy and drivers will be left without jobs and sources of income.
We are concerned about smooth function of the transport market in the EU. Restrictions in market access lead to monopolisation of the market by hauliers from some countries, which will lead inevitably to higher prices for many goods and services, impacting consumers’ budgets and economic growth.
It is not too late to steer the first Mobility Package in the right direction. The EP stands one last chance to make the appropriate adjustments. Harmful provisions for the single market, climate and economic recovery of the EU have to be rejected. We believe that road transport, supported by appropriate EU law, can become a lever for overcoming the crisis and a driver of economic growth.