Jun 052014

Dear IFRTT subscribers!

Every week my husband and I cross the border between The Netherlands and Germany while we live in the last and work in the first country. Occasionally there is a police check. Although we try to look very criminal, we always may drive on without even stop the car. We are living in Germany for 12 years now and we have seen the number of police checks increasing. Police are looking for human trafficking, illegal workers and international groups of burglars. In April the result of a joint action of the German and Dutch police at night were 86 cars with burglar tools and 48 arrested persons.

At the end of May the 28 European member countries voted for a new Parliament of the EU. I asked Anders (just ignored his retirement) to join me to evaluate the significance of the election results for road freight transport. First the results. Slightly more than 43% of the electorate found their way to the polling-stations. There are 751 seats to divide. The Christian Democrats (214) narrowly won from the Social Democrats (189), but more of importance is the disintegration of the political landscape in small parties and the triumph of the Eurosceptic parties. In France the Front National won 26%, the British Independence Party UKIP 27% and in Italy the 5 Stars Movement of the comedian BeppoGrillo got 21% of the votes. Even in small, highly export dependent Denmark, the Peoples Party got about 25% of the votes. The obvious discontent among the electorate is hard to explain because all kinds of national motives can play a role, but there are some important common drivers: the influx of immigrants, the fear for losing one’s own national identity, the EU policy on the banking crisis and the alleged bureaucracy of the European Union.  The bureaucracy argument is rather propagandistic; it certainly takes some administration to get 28 countries with 24 languages to agree.

To stop the influx of immigrants and cross border criminality, the call for restoring national border controls is getting louder. Since the Schengen Agreement of 1985, all border controls between the 22 Schengen states have gradually been abolished. Border checks can only be restored if there is a serious threat for public health or the environment. The closure of the customs offices with the corresponding deregulation on customs formalities and the harmonized rules for vehicle emissions, safety and truck weights and dimensions, meant the end of waiting times at border crossings for road freight transport. If the free travel of persons in the future will be restricted, it inevitable will have consequences for the free flow of goods. And that strikes the heart of the philosophy of the European integration.

Because of the disintegration of the political landscape and the rise of the Eurosceptic parties, member states will stress more on their own national interests. The book of liberalization of transport still needs a last chapter. Cabotage, the right of each hauler to transport goods within the borders of another country, is restricted to three rides per week. The rules for heavy vehicle weights and dimensions in cross-border transport, Directive 96/53/EC, has been highly successful, but could do with some modernization. The already difficult debate on the more efficient use of commercial vehicles will not become easier. The European Commission has ordered research on the consequences of High Capacity Vehicles.

Even if the great project of European integration has been slowed down, it will not stop completely.

Kind regards/Drive Safely

Loes and Anders

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