VILNIUS – Having taken over the rotating EU presidency in January, Croatia has vowed to help Lithuania and other Central and Eastern European countries during the negotiations on the Mobility Package which is set to require haulers return their trucks to the countries of registration every eight weeks.
Croatian Ambassador to Lithuania Kresimir Kedmenec says Zagreb wants to be an intermediary for small countries.
"We must (...) be a supporter to find a compromise, a compromise between bigger and richer countries and smaller and poorer countries, a sustainable solution for everybody of us," the diplomat told journalists during a event held in Vilnius to mark the start of the Croatian presidency.
Deputy Foreign Minister Neris Germanas says Lithuania expects solidarity from Croatia.
"We always hope that such small countries understand each other better than the big ones as they have similar problems. Croatia as well, speaking of the Mobility Package, as they are also involved in the haulage and transport issues," the vice minister told BNS. "We always try to look for allies and in this case we expect Croatia's support as they understand us very well," Germanas said.
EU member states backed the Mobility Package in late December, despite objection from Central and Eastern European countries.
According to diplomatic sources, Croatia then voted in favor of the new rules for haulers.
Now, the Mobility Package will go to the European Parliament for further consideration expected to start early this year.
Critics say the mandatory truck return will increase pollution and runs counter to Europe's ambitions to halt climate change. Moreover, the proposal is especially bad for peripheral countries.
Lithuanian businessmen and government representatives say western European countries wants stricter rules to push them out of the market.
Lithuania's national road carriers' association, LINAVA, says Lithuania's transport sector will incur huge losses that will mostly affect small enterprises. Besides, almost 35,000 people in this sector will lose their job.
Western Europeans say stricter rules would prevent abuse and improve working conditions. Countries including France and Germany say eastern European now compete unfairly with a cheap labor force, which is equal to "social dumping".