The EU plans to require truck drivers to return to their home country every eight weeks, instead of the stricter rules proposed earlier, sources in Brussels told BNS. However, Lithuania's transport vice minister says a new solution is needed.
The eight-week provision is included into a preliminary agreement reached on Thursday morning between the European Parliament and Finland, which represents the member states.
Lithuanian and other Central and Eastern European states accuse western European countries of protectionism. Critics, however, say more stringent rules will improve the drivers' working conditions.
European lawmakers had earlier proposed to require businesses to return drivers home at least every four weeks.
"Unfortunately, the preliminary agreement on mandatory return every eights weeks is not in the interest of Lithuania, or the closest neighbour or the whole of the EU," Vice Minister of Transport Gytis Mažeika said in a comment sent to BNS.
Finland will present the agreement to member states' transport attachés in Brussels on Friday, and then to ambassadors on Wednesday, sources told BNS.
"We have lost only a battle, but not the war, and we still have legal and negotiations possibilities to find an economically-based and environmentally-friendly solution," Mažeika said.
Thousands of truck drivers could lose jobs
However, the eight-week term will lead to thousands of jobs lost, according Lithuania's national road carriers' association, Linava.
"We can clearly say that, based on our estimates, Lithuania will lose around 34,000 jobs," Mečislavas Atroškevičius, secretary general at Linava, told BNS. The change from four to eight weeks will not be significant, Atroškevičius said. "The very fact of returning vehicles is a very bad thing," he added.
The requirements would also run counter to environmental protection, as the truck returns would increase pollution, said Atroškevičius.
"We will definitely be speaking and discussing possible steps we could take but that's already outside the association's competence and [is now] within the state's competence," he said. "Unfortunately, not everything is fine with the state's attitude towards the transport sector as many non-weighted decisions have been made, including on taxes and other things."
Tomas Garuolis, transport policy secretary at Linava, said Mobility Package and the increase in the minimum monthly salary for posted workers will encourage concentration in the haulage sector, which will subsequently reduce competition.
However, truck drivers have previously staged a counter-protest against Linava, saying that the wages and the working conditions for drivers are dire.
Read more: Drivers stage counter-protest against haulage firms to demand living wages