The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Far too mobile

Josianne Cutajar MEP Sunday, 16 May 2021, 10:10 Last update: about 2 months ago

I am not one to usually argue against mobility. Hailing from a rural island, I know all too well the pains of having to cross islands via ferry twice a day, five days a week. Being used to making this crossing almost every day, I know all too well that mobility is desired by my kin. And yet, last year I had to vote against the so-called Mobility package. Going forward, I shall be explaining the reasoning behind my vote.

Make no mistake about it, I fully support the upgrading and modernisation of the European mobility sector. It is my belief that decent conditions for workers must be a priority in a Union that prides itself for its respect of fundamental rights, a Union that prides itself with having the highest global social standards. And it is for this reason that precarious employment should continue being addressed relentlessly by means of inclusive dialogue and legislation. Abusive practices in the mobility sector have become common practice, undermining the efforts to achieve a level playing field for all European operators. These practices indeed go against the fundamental principles of the European Single Market. 

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"So why didn't you and your Maltese colleagues support the mobility package?", one would ask. If the initial objectives of the Mobility Package were noble, focused on tackling abuse and unfair practices throughout the Union, the same cannot be said for some elements included in the final agreement and their effects.

Some elements within the Mobility Package were in fact far too mobile. One of these measures, the compulsory return of trucks to the Member State of establishment every eight weeks, simply does not make sense for island states like Malta and Cyprus. In our case, compulsory returns will only result in Maltese and Gozitan consumers bearing the brunt of higher prices, given that Maltese companies will end up having higher costs since island specificities related to islands were not taken into account. The same goes for Cyprus. It goes without saying therefore that Malta and Cyprus are two of the member states who have lodged individual complaints to the European Court of Justice in relation to the Mobility Package. 

For these reasons, as much as I agreed with the positive elements of the Mobility Package, I could not support it. Neither could my Maltese colleagues and in fact, it was my pleasure seeing that all Maltese MEPs supported my proposed Mobility Package amendments in a rare bipartisan showing. 

With that being said, it must be stated that the one size fits all approach adopted by these reports, directly impinges on operators hailing from island states, with dire consequences on their import-dependent economies. To make matters worse, last February the European Commission released its studies in relation to the Mobility Package. The results of these studies were unequivocal, with the Commission estimating that the return of the vehicle measure in the Mobility package will increase emissions by almost 3 million tons of CO2 emissions per year. Now, whilst I am not an environmental expert, it only stands to reason that the mandatory return of vehicles will increase emissions.

The Commission has a duty to not present legislation that runs counter to our 2050 net zero objectives. The Mobility Package is one of the most divisive issues at an institutional level. It divided and is still dividing the continent. In the Transport Committee, together with colleagues from like-minded states, we tried to warn about the damage some of the measures would cause. It is bittersweet to be able to state "we were right". 


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