The EU Council approved the controversial changes in the rules on international freight transport under its mobility package, which triggered dissatisfaction from a number of Eastern EU members, including Bulgaria, local media reported. Bulgaria is the designated victim from the package, Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov said, quoted by the state news agency BTA.
Bulgaria managed to obtain annulment of the requirement on making the transport vehicle go back to its company’s state of residence at every four weeks. On the other hand, the restriction requiring the return of the vehicles’ drivers to their home country at least once per every four weeks was approved. In addition, the driver will be obliged to stay at night in hotels instead of his vehicle’s cabin. Transport Minister Zhelyazkov said he will talk with MEPs to convince them of voting an exception to the rule of hotel stays in case the drivers park their vehicles at special parking lots with the necessary conditions. If the connection between the drivers’ work and their home countries remains unchanged, the EU rules on business trips, requiring their wages to become equal to those of their counterparts in the respective country they stay in for over three days, will not be applied. Still, Bulgaria remains overall worried about the potential effects of the mobility package . Previous estimates of the Bulgarian Transport Association showed that 120,000 drivers in Bulgaria might lose their jobs and their business generates approximately 17% of Bulgaria’s GDP.
The EU Council’s stance will be used as a basis for negotiations with the European Parliament before the final adoption of the new single EU legislation on the freight vehicles. The EP has not set the framework of the rules it will support, but the two institutions will need to come up with a consensus on the new rules before they enter into force. The new rules are generally expected to enter into force as of 2020, Zhelyazkov said.