Let’s remove restrictions on cabotage – for the benefit of the environment and EU rules

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Autor: Marcin Wolak

Only the total removal of restrictions on cabotage will ensure compliance with the European Union's climate and environmental policies. At present, however, we are witnessing completely opposite actions. Individual countries focus on protecting their own internal markets to the detriment of not only the environment, but also the principles on which the community was built.

Today, the freedom to provide services is an empty slogan because transport services are discriminated against in Europe. Companies are not free to provide transport services because they are subject to restrictive regulations. Further tightening of these regulations will be a step towards the total end of the free movement of services and entrepreneurship in the European Union. Today, some European politicians intend to abolish the remnants of the freedoms of the road transport industry, and tomorrow the turn will come for other industries. Europe must wake up before it is too late.

Cabotage restrictions also mean empty runs. Today's technology, used for transport management and movement of goods, would almost completely eliminate this inefficiency - but the regulations are binding in this respect. Few people remember that Regulation (EC) No 1072/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 on common rules for access to the international road haulage market liberalized the rules on cabotage. It was then argued that reducing empty runs would help the environment. And it was achieved.

According to Eurostat data, empty journeys in 2005-2007 accounted for 25%. Immediately after the entry into force of the new provisions allowing for three cabotage operations within a limited time period in 2010, empty mileage accounted for 24%, and finally in 2017 it reached 20%.

A 5 percentage point drop in empty running is a great success. Considering the huge increase in the overall volume of transport, these 5 points translate into a meaningful reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Limiting the freedom of transport in Europe may restore the state from before 2010, and the effects can be tragic for the environment.

The regulation also reads:

The establishment of a common transport policy implies the removal of all restrictions against the person providing transport services on the grounds of nationality or the fact that he is established in a different Member State from the one in which the services are to be provided.

In order to achieve this smoothly and flexibly, provision should be made for a transitional cabotage regime as long as harmonisation of the road haulage market has not yet been completed.

The gradual completion of the single European market should lead to the elimination of restrictions on access to the domestic markets of Member States. (...) The Commission should closely monitor the market situation as well as the harmonisation mentioned above and propose, if appropriate, the further opening of domestic road transport markets, including cabotage.

Therefore, when looking closely at the above regulations, it can be concluded that the provisions proposed in the Mobility Package are completely the opposite of the regulations adopted ten years ago.

Instead of introducing solutions to further deepen the single European market and to seek to lift restrictions on access to Member States' markets, they will put an end to the freedom to provide services in the European Union. The direction should be as mentioned at the beginning - a total lifting of restrictions on cabotage which will ensure compliance with both climate and environmental policies, but also with the basic principles of the European Union.


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