The European Parliament (EP) has passed the so-called Mobility Package, a major reform of the road transport sector that is opposed by Lithuania and eight other EU member states.
MEPs endorsed a compromise on the Mobility Package reached in December.
“The revised rules for posting of drivers, drivers’ driving times and rest periods and better enforcement of cabotage rules […] aim to put an end to distortion of competition in the road transport sector and provide better rest conditions for drivers,” the EP said in a statement on Thursday.
The most contentious provision requires trucks to return to their country of registration every eight weeks.
Western Europeans say the mandatory return will help combat the practice of registering fictitious transport companies in lower-tax countries.
Lithuanian haulers and the government say that Western Europeans are seeking to push their competitors out of the market and that the mandatory return of trucks will increase road pollution.
The provision was particularly opposed by countries in the periphery of the EU: the Baltic states, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Cyprus and Malta.
The package also includes more rights for long-haul drivers. Transportation companies would be oblige to ensure rest periods for drivers in hotels rather than truck cabins.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has called the Mobility Package discriminatory.
“It is obvious now that this package will discriminate against carriers from the countries at the EU’s external borders vis-à-vis other EU carriers,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
“We are ready to defend our position by legal means and we are waiting for concrete actions of the European Commission to mitigate the negative provisions,” he said.
MEP Petras Auštrevičius told LRT.lt on Tuesday that Lithuania would look for allies to file a suit over unfair competition rules with the European Court of Justice.
Lithuania’s national road carriers association LINAVA made a statement on Thursday criticising the EP’s move.
“The vote is a clear proof that the Mobility Package has divided the EU into eastern and western members states, into old and new one, into centre and periphery, those focused on production and on service export,” LINAVA president Romas Austinskas is quoted in the statement.
“We are very concerned that this division will deprive Lithuanian haulers of the opportunities presented by the EU’s common market,” he added.
Lithuania’s road transport sector exports 92 percent of its services.
According to Lithuania’s International Transport and Logistics Alliance, the rule of regularly returning trucks to their country of origin will increase road traffic and pollution emissions.
“Due to this requirement, the truck parks of seven peripheral EU countries alone […] will emit 3.2 million tons more of CO2 per year,” said the Alliance’s board chairwoman Agnė Margevičiūtė.