TRAN vote on mobility package January 10, 2019 – what happened and what happens now

Date: 16, January 2019
Dramatically the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament failed to find a majority on January 10 for all the three reports submitted for vote: posting, driving and rest time and access to market and profession. Following the rejection by Plenary in July 2018 of the previous TRAN reports, new compromise text had been tabled in December 2018 and it was expected that the Committee could find a majority on that basis. This was also expected in light of the general approach reached by a majority in Council early December 2018.

In the new compromises most noticeable was perhaps the changes in the report on posting, where the report now followed more or less the lines of the general approach of Council from December 2018: application of posting for cabotage, cross trade and combined transport; exemption from posting for traditional bilateral transport.

By January 8, 2019 the expectation for a majority in TRAN had been challenged. Not unexpectedly had a number of Easteuropean MEPs tabled alternative compromises for the Committee vote, which of course were contrary to the interests and positions of NLA, but amendments had also been tabled by some of the rapporteurs to the other reports. In other words – there were signs that the compromise amendments from December were not really compromises.

However, by morning on January 10, it was still not clear where the majority would be. The order of vote – posting, driving- and rest time, cabotage – was not by coincidence, but clearly does not make a solution easier. And so it proved to be. The votes on the posting-report never managed to show a majority for any of the 7 different alternatives presented. Interestingly the alternatives with most votes were for the strictest application of posting. The alternatives with the most liberal approach, including no posting at all, had significant numbers against them. But none of the alternatives had a majority and thus the Committee had no position to adopt. Demonstrates clearly how difficult it is for Parliament to find a majority in this issue.

The next vote – on driving and rest time – was therefore also doomed. The original compromise had 28 votes against it. The only one with less votes against it, was the text supported by the Employment Committee – a text which has a lot of focus on protecting the drivers. The result was again, that no compromise could be agreed.

It was therefore with surprise that the vote on the Ertug report on access to market (cabotage and light vehicles) and on access to profession (letterbox companies) was adopted in a first vote with 27 votes in favour and 21 votes against. Not a big majority, but still comfortable. This is interesting, because the Ertug-report contains very strict restrictions on cabotage and access to the profession, including regulating vehicles below 3.5 tons 

However, at the end of the vote even the chairwoman of the Committee stated that there was a need to discuss what to do, because so far these 3 proposals have been seen as a package. A meeting between the political groups at lunch time that day did not produce a result. They are meeting again this week.

The Employment Committee had a brief discussion of the situation same afternoon. Not much new emerged except that they clearly are disappointed that Transport Committee was not able to produce an acceptable compromise. Some members called for more active role for EMPL to push for a solution. Even some Easteuropean MEPs in EMPL seemed disappointed by TRAN.

What can happen now?

It is important to remember the basic rule: Parliament needs to adopt a report to be send to Council before Council can agree to it or not! Without a report from Parliament Council cannot proceed to adopt anything. So in that sense we are stuck.

Parliament does have a number of options for next steps. The formal way forward, would be to clarify the texts that have already been adopted in TRAN – either in June/July 2018 or in January 2019 – and prepare these texts for plenary. Problem is, that amendments to these texts can be tabled at Plenary and the vote might end up as messy as it was in July 2018, with no clear position from Parliament. This creates the risk that Parliament ends up in fact rejecting the proposals and that will be the end of the Mobility package.

Other possibilities are to agree on what can be agreed and have no opinion on the rest or to leave it for the new Parliament, after the election of in end of May 2019 

“For NLA – and I believe most other road transport associations in the EU – this is not a happy situation. Much as we may disagree on the content of the Mobility package, there is a need for an update of central elements of EU legislation. This is the only way to avoid new national solutions to further develop,” comments CEO Soren Larsen from NLA. “It is my impression, that while East and some South European MEPs have contributed to the situation we are now facing – and feel proud having done so – my colleagues from the same East or South European countries are not happy with the situation, because they know the risk for new barriers to be erected in the Internal Market.” 

“We will continue to argue for finding a solution which has support in Council and Parliament and then get to work on ensuring the new rules will make a difference. If nothing happens we will have to start looking at how to use existing rules to ensure same fair conditions for the road hauliers in the Scandinavian countries as in other countries”, comments Soren Larsen.