On Wednesday, Marius Skuodis, Minister of Transport and Communications of Lithuania, spoke by telephone with Adina Valean, European Commissioner for Transport (EC), and discussed free movement of goods through transport corridors in Europe during the period of the ongoing pandemic, issues concerning implementation of the Rail Baltica Project and the Mobility Package.
“It is clear that, in the face of the pandemic, Europe is always working too slow to tackle obstacles to free movement of goods across borders. We therefore discussed how Lithuania, together with neighbouring countries, could contribute in coordinating carrier-related issues and decisions, and proposed full support and assistance of our country“, – emphasized M. Skuodis.
According to the Minister, practice of testing truck drivers for COVID-19, which is applicable in some countries, is relevant to Lithuania, and is important to coordinate this issue at EU level. During the telephone conversation, European Commissioner A. Valean provided an example which, in her view, raises doubts about the necessary testing of truck drivers.
“37 thousand truck drivers were tested at the border between the United Kingdom and France. However, only one hundred drivers were tested positive for coronavirus. This is a very small percentage, and the whole situation shows that truck drivers are not spreaders of the virus. Therefore, the issue of truck driver testing needs to be well discussed and substantiated“, – said the Eurocommissioner.
During the conversation, both the European Commissioner and the Minister emphasized that progress in the implementation of the Rail Baltica project is a task of strategic importance for Lithuania, the whole region and Europe. For this reason, it is particularly important to maintain extra 1.4 billion euros intended for the implementation of EU rail transport connection projects, in order to complete the Rail Baltica project by 2026.
“I fully support Lithuania’s position in terms of this Project, and hope that the European Parliament will support the European Commission’s intention to speed up the completion of this project”, – said A. Valean.
As for the Mobility Package, which triggered much debate in EU countries, it was noted during the conversation that the European Commission is committed to carrying out an impact assessment as regards the provisions of the Mobility Package obliging to return trucks to the company’s country of registration every 8 weeks. The Minister M. Skuodis reminded that, in order to protect the interests of Lithuanian carriers, Lithuania and 6 other countries, that did not support the discriminatory Mobility Package, brought actions before the EU Court of Justice. Latvia, Estonia and Belgium will join the complaint submitted.
“We hope that, after carrying out the evaluation, the European Commission will propose appropriate amendments. Although I myself fully support the goal of improving the working conditions of drivers, the new EU legislation cannot be contradictory to the fundamental principles of the EU single market and the objectives of the European Green Deal”, – noted M. Skuodis during the conversation.
According to him, measures for green and digital transformation of the sector and for the development of efficient infrastructure are planned together with the EC.
The EC Commissioner for Transport congratulated M. Skuodis for taking up his duties as the Minister of Transport and Communication, and assured that cooperation between Lithuania and the EC will continue to be actively pursued and strengthened. She also thanked for the proposed assistance of Lithuania in coordinating carrier issues.