Government welcomes ECJ AG’s opinion on return of vehicle rule in EU Mobility Package

Malta is working to exclude the country from a controversial clause in the EU’s mobility package that would mean a hike in cost for Maltese haulage companies

File photo
File photo

Government has welcomed the Advocate General’s opinion in European Court of Justice to annul the ‘return of vehicle’ rule in the Mobility Package.

“This rule, which obliges heavy goods vehicles to return to their country of establishment every eight weeks, would have a negative impact on the environment, the transport sector and the economy of Malta, as an island State. The brunt of this would therefore be shouldered by the consumer,” government said in a statement.

Under the amended text following the first round of negotiations on the EU’s mobility package, haulage companies would be bound to restrict their drivers' rest period, established at 45 hours every three to four consecutive weeks, at “the employer’s establishment or to the drivers’ place of residence.”

Trucks would also have to return to the company’s headquarters every eight weeks, in a move designed to prevent haulage companies from trying to register in other EU countries to take advantage of lower taxes. For Maltese companies, this means extra ferry trips to Malta.

Government said the annulment of this provision would result in significantly lower costs for the transport companies and therefore lower costs for consumers.

“This would be a timely development given the current international scenario. Malta argued before the CJEU that the ‘return of vehicle’ rule infringed Article 91(2) of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which requires the EU to take into account the environmental protection requirements and the specific characteristics of transport in each Member State when adopting measures concerning transport. Malta also invoked Article 11 and Article 37 of the TFEU, which relate to the integration of environmental protection into the implementation of Union policies and activities, and the promotion of a high level of environmental protection,” the statement read.

The government said the Advocate General agreed with Malta that the ‘return of vehicle’ rule had not been sufficiently justified by the European Parliament and the Council, and that it had not taken into account the environmental impact of the increased emissions and fuel consumption resulting from the obligation to return vehicles every eight weeks.

“The Advocate General also acknowledged that the rule would seriously affect the standard of living and employment in Malta, as well as the operation of transport facilities, due to the geographical constraints and the existing maritime transport infrastructure,” it said.

“The Government of Malta welcomes this important Opinion and now looks forward to the Court’s Judgement, which is expected in the course of next year. The Government reiterates its commitment to defend the interests of the Maltese transport sector and the environment, and to ensure a fair and balanced mobility framework within the EU.”