Driving a truck is becoming fashionable these days. After Vladimir Putin, who crossed the newly-built Crimea bridge driving a truck, now a Bulgarian MEP plans to ride a TIR truck from Sofia to Brussels, to protest against the “Mobility Package” for which the old EU countries France, Germany, Austria and Italy are pushing.
Andrey Novakov, an MEP from Boyko Borissov’s ruling party GERB, announced on Facebook he will ride a TIR truck to protest against 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.
“I will ride with a TIR between Sofia and Brussels, and I will share the everyday life of the boys who make their living as drivers, and prove that the European Commission proposals in the Mobility package are unacceptable and harmful to our carriers”, Novakov wrote.
It remains unclear if he will actually drive the truck. In any case, he is pictured climbing on the drivers’ seat.
The Mobility Package, currently under discussion in the EU, has prompted the protests of Bulgarian transport companies’ bosses. They claim that the legislative changes are only aimed at throwing out of business companies from Eastern Europe, and making sure that the Bulgarian drivers would work for the Western competition. They say this ‘protectionist’ measures aim to expel the Bulgarian, Polish, Hungarian and Romanian truck transport companies from the market.
The Bulgarian government has taken position against the mobility package. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov met with EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc on 14 May, and told her that the proposed changes “kill the Bulgarian branch”.
What is the EPP position?
In the meantime, a controversy unfolded following a statement by the head of the European Parliament’s EPP Group Manfred Weber, who said in Sofia that with its 219 MEPs, the EPP group will support the GERB proposals for the mobility package.
After meeting the GERB MPs in the National Assembly, Weber said their position was “absolutely identical” to the position the EPP advocates in the European Parliament.
“We are the free market party, we want this market to have competitiveness. European mechanisms must not be used, measures must be put in place that in one way or another punish the Bulgarian carriers and give priority to the French”, said Weber. Further, he attacked the socialists: “We want to have competition, protect companies and their jobs. What strongly surprises me is the position of the Socialists. At the European level, it is precisely the Social Democrats and the Socialists who are the most pleading for the introduction of higher social standards. It is not normal that Bulgarian socialists advocate for higher social standards in the European Parliament, and in Bulgaria they oppose them”, Weber said.
Weber’s statements gave the opportunity to S&D MEP Peter Kouroumbashev to call “absolute lie” the description of the EPP position Weber made in Sofia.
“I would like to recommend to the EPP Group Chairman in the European Parliament to get acquainted with the position of MEPs from his own parliamentary group regarding the European Commission’s proposals concerning the Bulgarian carriers. During the discussion [on Tuesday] of the legislative proposals in the EP Transport and Tourism Committee, Mr. Vim van de Camp, a member of the European Parliament of the European People’s Party and a rapporteur on the regulation in question, unambiguously supported the position of France and Germany”, Kouroumbashev stated.
The Bulgarian S&D MEP reminded that on the mobility package, he had personally initiated last November that all Bulgarian MEPs would stick to the same position, and that position was unanimously adopted.