Croatia has vowed to help Lithuania and other Central and Eastern European countries during the negotiations on the Mobility Package that will require trucks to return to their countries of origin every eight weeks.
Lithuania 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.
After Croatia took over the rotating EU presidency in January, the country's ambassador to Lithuania Kresimir Kedmenec says Zagreb wants to be an intermediary for small countries.
"We must [...] be a supporter to find a compromise [...] between bigger and richer countries and smaller and poorer countries, a sustainable solution for everybody of us," the diplomat told journalists during a event held in Vilnius to mark the start of the Croatian presidency.
Deputy Foreign Minister Neris Germanas says Lithuania expects solidarity from Croatia.
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"We always hope that the small countries understand each other better than the big ones as they have similar problems," the vice minister told BNS, adding that Croatia is also involved with the transport issues.
"We always try to look for allies and in this case we expect Croatia's support as they understand us very well," Germanas said.
EU member states backed the Mobility Package in late December, despite objection from Central and Eastern European countries.
According to diplomatic sources, Croatia then voted in favour of the new rules for haulers.
Now, the Mobility Package will go to the European Parliament for further consideration, which are expected to start early this year.
Lithuanian officials and business representatives say the mandatory truck return will increase pollution and runs counter to Europe's ambitions to halt climate change, and that the western European countries wants stricter rules to push them out of the market.
Lithuania's national road carriers' association, Linava, says Lithuania's transport sector will incur huge losses that will mostly affect small enterprises. Besides, almost 35,000 people in this sector will lose their job.
Drivers in Lithuania, meanwhile, are saying that more stringent rules will improve the already dire working conditions and boost wages. Countries including France and Germany also say that eastern European companies compete unfairly due to their cheap labour force.
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