Flemish Mobility Minister to mount legal challenge against new EU cabotage rules

News from Brussels

Source: trans.info, 2021-03-08

Lydia Peeters, the Minister for Mobility in the Belgian area of Flanders, has said that herself and her colleagues will mount a legal challenge against the new EU cabotage rules.

In a statement published on 6 March, Peeters described the new regulations as “detrimental” to the Flemish and Belgian road transport sector. The Mobility Minister added that she will do all she can to have the rules changed: “The quality of life and the future of our transport companies are at stake. I want to do everything I can to ensure that the new European cabotage rules are adjusted.” 

The issue that the Belgians have taken issue with is the introduction of a so-called “cooling-off period”. During this cooling-off period, which applies after 3 cabotage operations, carriers are no longer allowed to undertake new cabotage operations in the same Member State for four days.

“This new rule restricts access to important markets in our neighboring countries, particularly France. This can undermine the earnings model of Belgian and Flemish transport companies and I therefore cannot approve at all,” says Flemish Minister Lydia Peeters. 

“The international transport activity of our transport sector is concentrated in our neighboring countries. This rule is particularly disadvantageous for the many smaller players active on the French and German markets. The fact that our road hauliers can still carry out cabotage operations on the way back from an international transport means that the transport sector is still viable, despite the high wage costs in this country. The Belgian market itself is too small to absorb the expected loss of journeys.”

Although Peeters also referred to a number of positive elements in the latest version of the EU mobility package, she stressed that the issue with the cabotage rules is so severe that legal action must be taken. As a result, Belgium will now join Malta in going to the European Union Court of Justice to have the rules changed.

“The mobility package represents a major step forward in terms of social aspects in the road transport sector,” says Flemish Minister Lydia Peeters. “It will ensure better working conditions for truck drivers, special posting rules in the international transport sector, an update of the rules for access to the road haulier market and more effective action against PO box companies in EU Member States with lower wage costs. As Minister responsible for mobility, I fully support these improvements, but the new cabotage rules are unacceptable to us. In the original proposal of the European Commission, there was still a liberalisation of cabotage, which is in line with the vision of Europe to strive for a single European market. This curtailment of the cabotage options is due to the protectionist considerations of a number of large states, who are trying to do away with the competition they feel from our Flemish transport companies, among others. That is why we are joining forces and joining the lawsuit of Malta, one of the many Member States that also could not agree to this introduction.”

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