The Bulgarian government strongly opposed the so-called “Mobility Package” for which the old EU countries France, Germany, Austria and Italy are pushing. Thus Sofia officially supported the Bulgarian transport companies, which a few months ago declared themselves against the initiative. Krassen Nikolov has the story.
Krassen Nikolov is a journalist specialised in judiciary affairs. He works for Mediapool and is a regular contributor for BulgarianPresidency.eu for the six months of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The EU Mobility Package foresees that truck drivers from Eastern European countries will receive the same payment for journeys abroad as those in Western European transport companies. The other obligation is for drivers to spend a compulsory 45-hour break per week in a hotel. The problem is that this will kill the competitive advantage of Eastern European firms and they will have to raise prices because of their higher costs.
According to Bulgarian transport associations, this could kick out nearly 190,000 Bulgarian drivers out of work.
“We declare the government strong support for the Bulgarian carriers,” Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski stated.
According to him, the “mobility package” violates human rights because of the obligations workers have to return home after a journey abroad, and that they are told where to spend their breaks.
“There can be no obligation for citizens to spend their breaks,” said Moskovski, adding that this position is fully supported by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. At the same time, the “Mobility Package” is mostly supported by France.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about the package during his speech on the future of Europe in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 17 April. Macron raised the issue during his visit to Bulgaria in August last year, and at that time, Borissov raised no objections. Moskovski stressed that France was so relentless in its stance that it blocked every chance for a debate.
“We are having heavy debates ahead of us, which unfortunately were aborted at the level of a working group. At the last meeting of the working group the French representative demonstratively left”, Moskovski said.
He added that on 16 and 17 May there would be meetings between Prime Minister Borissov, French President Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Although the meetings are in the context of the Western Balkans summit in Sofia, he said that Borissov would raise the issue.
“We invited the responsible Commissioner for Transport [Violeta Bulc] to come to Bulgaria, and meet both with the Prime Minister and with the whole industry and representatives of transport associations”, Moskovski said.
Last October, all Bulgarian representatives in the European Parliament came up with a common position against the restrictive clauses in the Mobility Package. They stated that part of the proposals were infringing competition.
France’s tactics during the negotiations seems to indicate that the country seeks a solution during the Austrian EU Presidency, as Vienna supports the package. Austria takes over the rotating presidency from Bulgaria on 1 July.
Bulgarian road carriers are reportedly planning a protest on 16 and 17 May, which will coincide with the Western Balkans summit. Apparently this time they would seek to impress the foreign high guests, rather than put pressure on Borissov.