In August last year, the ‘mobility package’ came into force, which, in fact, is the transport sector reform of the EU.
There was full-on warfare in the European Parliament over this. As it is said in the medieval chronicle about the Crusades: “Showers of weapons darkened the air...” The parallel with the Crusades is no coincidence: The ‘mobility package’ also contrasted the West and the East. The deputies of the countries of Eastern Europe, including myself, were against it, but Old Europe still pushed through what was beneficial to it and disadvantageous to us.
The final document went even beyond what the European Commission proposed. The most trumpeted requirement was for truckers. The ‘mobility package’ requires them to return home every eight weeks, even without a load, and spend the weekend not in the cab of the truck, but in a motel or hotel, which must be paid for by the company.
The amendments were made under the pretext of caring for the drivers, but everyone understands that this is hypocrisy. The purpose of the package is to undermine the competitiveness of carriers from the periphery, especially from Eastern Europe, which Western Europe dislikes, as they are too cheap and hard-working. 62% of transport within the EU is carried out by small transport companies of the East, and they are now doing the worst.
As calculated in Estonia, our drivers must return empty six times a year. Costs are rising – by 11,000 euros per truck a year – and so are the prices of services. The consequences will not be long in coming. Bulgaria, which had relied on transport, had the toughest time: by 2023, half of the carriers of this country will have gone bankrupt, and this is 14,000 unemployed, and minus three percent of the country’s GDP. The blow to Estonia will be smaller, but we do not need all that much for it to make a difference.
To the credit of Eastern Europe, we have acted as a united front. The Baltic states, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland, as well as Cyprus and Malta, demanded to remove the amendments, as being contrary to the rules of the Common Market. But not only that. Europe is pursuing the Green Deal and reducing CO2 emissions in every possible way. And every trip of a truck without a load is exactly what CO2 emissions are. Moreover, unnecessary ones. So, the attack on the law is being carried out from two flanks: an economic and environmental one.
European Commissioner for Transport Adina-Ioana Vălean, being from Romania herself, understands everything perfectly, but she needs exact numbers. Two studies were ordered, and it turned out that the rumours of an environmental disaster were not exaggerated. Due to the greed of Old Europe, an additional 3.3 million tons of CO2 will be emitted into the atmosphere annually. The scientists emphasise that it is comparable to the volume of CO2 from all motor vehicles in Estonia. Big time, huh? Plus, nitrogen oxides, which are fraught with a long list of diseases, and much more.
While the European Commission had been arming itself with these numbers and preparing to fight further, seven EU countries filed lawsuits against the ‘mobility package’. Estonia is not among them, but we, as usual, were belated: the decision was made, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is about to file a complaint with the European Court.
This is not a victory yet, but the chances of winning are good. And the moral is simple: it is possible to unite and defend one’s interests within the EU as well. And not only is it possible – it is necessary.