Bulgarian truckers protest against proposed EU rules during summit
(Adds Macron quotes)
By Angel Krasimirov
SOFIA, May 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of truck drivers blocked
roads across Bulgaria on Thursday as European Union leaders met
in Sofia, protesting against proposed EU rules they say would
cost their jobs and put their firms out of business.
Transport company owners described the initiative, known as
the Mobility Package, as a protectionist measure designed to
help rival firms in western Europe. The Bulgarian transport
association said around 120,000 drivers from the country would
lose their jobs under the proposed rule changes.
Trucks from Bulgaria and other low-wage eastern European
countries are a common sight on the roads of western Europe,
competing with local firms whose drivers are much higher paid.
Under the package, backed by France, Germany and other
higher-wage states, truck drivers from eastern Europe would
receive the same payment for work abroad as those employed by
western European transport companies.
The package has long been the subject of negotiations
between EU member states and has yet to be laid before the
The Bulgarian government backed the local truck companies.
"We declare our strong support for Bulgarian carriers,"
Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski said.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who is hosting the EU summit,
said the proposed changes would "kill the Bulgarian sector".
French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped a compromise
could be found in the coming months. "We will find a balanced
deal together that will ensure the proper working of the single
market, good social protection and fair competition in the
transport sector. September has to be our objective," he told a
news conference at the Sofia summit.
Drivers from Bulgaria, where average monthly wages of little
more than 500 euros ($600) are among the lowest in the EU, often
spend weeks moving loads between countries including Germany,
France and Britain before returning to their home base.
Under the package, drivers would have to rest for at least
45 hours in a hotel rather than their cab and return home every
Bulgarian transport firms said this would nullify eastern
European companies' competitive advantage.
"These restrictions are absolutely unnecessary," Vladislav
Kalchev, owner of a transport company, said. "They are trying to
help, in some way, the market in the big countries."
($1 = 0.8477 euros)
(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek
editing by David Stamp)
First Published: 2018-05-17 15:06:21
Updated 2018-05-17 19:36:37
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