On the 31st of May 2017 the Commission published the first of two packages of proposals on the topic of mobility and transport. The stated goals of the proposed reforms were to competitiveness and enable a smooth transition to clean energy and digitalisation.
Mobility employs more than 11 million Europeans directly. The eight legislative measures proposed for road transport address the functioning of the haulage market – stepping up enforcement, fighting illegal employment practices and bringing more clarity to existing rules – and propose improvements for citizens’ mobility such as interoperability between road tolling systems between European countries.
The Commission announced the second Mobility Package on the 8th of November 2017 with a focus on reducing CO2 emissions from road transport, which make up a fifth of the EU´s greenhouse gas emissions.
CO2 emissions from cars and vans will have to be 30 percent lower in 2030, compared to 2021 according to the proposed legislation, to be consistent with the EUs commitments in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Other measures are the Clean Vehicles Directive, aiming to refine public procurement rules to favour clean mobility tenders to boost demand, and an increase in investment and incentives for innovative and clean transport solutions.
What are the issues at stake?
At face value, the proposals for reform and modernisation of the transport sector should be welcomed as they promise bolder cuts to CO2 emissions towards zero-emissions roads and talk about better conditions for workers and tougher enforcement measures. But there are several sticking points for the Left.
First, the long-standing issue of road transport workers – the thousands of commercial transport drivers that transport goods across Europe – and how much of their rights are affirmed in the proposed reforms. The issue of maximum driving/resting times have been a longstanding concern for the transport unions that needs to be addressed.
Second, the sustainable transport targets for CO2 emissions seem ambitious but to what extent are they dictated by industry lobbies as opposed to the needs of our planet at this crucial juncture. The car manufacturing lobby has influenced EU laws and regulations negatively as GUE/NGL MEPs uncovered at the European Parliament´s committee of inquiry into Dieselgate.
Third, road safety is absent from the Commission proposals. The EU must ensure measures are put in place to reduce fatalities on EU roads and this is a clear aspect of modern mobility that must be addressed.
What is next?
The proposals will be scrutinised in detail at the relevant parliamentary committees (and eventually in the plenary) before the Parliament and the Council enter into negotiations to finalise the plans. The various pieces of legislation that make up the two road Mobility Packages are expected to be approved in 2018 and will subsequently enter into force.
The view from the Left
GUE/NGL MEPs are broadly supportive of the initiative for reform of road transport as many of the measures included in the Commission proposals are longstanding demands of the Left.
Our position on workers’ rights, in this case road transport workers, is uncompromising and we expect the Parliament´s position to reflect that. We echo the demands of the transport unions for the protection of the social rights of drivers. The reforms must define a threshold of accumulated days per month in a host member state for the application of national minimum wage and annual pay leave for fleet drivers.
The transport sector accounts for one third of the energy consumption in the Union. While other sectors are decreasing their percentage of emissions, transportation has increased its share since 1990. This aspect is hidden in the Commission´s uncritical discourse about cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the sector.
Our group is fully committed to achieve the ambitious targets of the Paris Climate Change Accords. The EU should be a leader in these efforts and thus we defend concrete policies in the following four domains:
- Energy savings through more efficient transport systems and networks: we want a switch from road to rail and sustainable waterways, enhancing multimodality and combined transport, ensuring quality collective and public transport for EU citizens, enhancing innovation in intelligent transport systems.
- Renewable energies production and distribution: the EU should focus on collective and decentralized sustainable energy. An appropriate and ambitious EU framework is needed to enhance innovation.
- Adequate direct and indirect taxation incentives: implement the ´polluter pays´ principle.
Kateřina Konečná: “The first and second road Mobility Packages are important opportunities for radical change to how things are done in the transport sector to favour the environment, sustainability and workers´ rights. We must now fulfil our duty to European citizens and fight for the rights of road workers, sustainable transportation and better road safety. We must make sure that the final outcome of this process is as progressive as possible.”
Tania González Peñas: “Road transport is not only about economy, employment or pollution. It is also about the 25 000 lives lost every year in EU roads. Enforcing multimodality and switching from road to rail and collective transport can actually save lives. The work of GUE/NGL does not aim to limit the mobility of EU citizens but to make mobility more efficient, intelligent, sustainable and safe.”
Merja Kyllönen: “I very much welcome the Commission's clean mobility package initiative, which complements the first mobility package from the environmental, climate and public health perspectives. The first package tackles the issue of road tolls and better establishes the principle of polluter pays in the EU. The second package puts more pressure on the manufacturers and public authorities to fight climate change. The EU must continue showing leadership in this shared effort for the future of our planet.”