An opinion by Georgi Gotev
Thanks to the so-called “Mobility package”, Bulgarians have a much better understanding of who their MEPs are, and how the European Parliament functions.
Among the controversial reforms in the package is a compulsory return of drivers to their country of origin for their monthly rest. In Bulgaria, these measures are seen as discriminatory and aimed at creating unnecessary handicap for haulers from countries distant from the EU core. The last word on the package belongs to the European Parliament.
Bulgarian MEPs have so far been united in opposing the package. It has been said and repeated that if the package is passed, the entire Bulgaria road transport sector, which in his words represents 17% of the country’s economy, would go bankrupt.
This is certainly exaggerated, but nevertheless, the stakes are high, and the sector was able to show that it has a cause the nations should fight for. Last January, the sector organised large-scale protests in Brussels, with protestors sent to the EU capital by charter flights.
In the meantime, Bulgarian MEPs across the board were mobilised to lobby for postponing the vote on the Mobility package for the next European Parliament.
But then a drama occurred on Monday (25 March), when the European Parliament voted not to amend its agenda and to put the Macron’s package to the vote in plenary on Wednesday.
The result of the vote pumped up additional hype: 156 MEPs against 154 decided that the vote would be held on Wednesday.
Bulgarian transport minister Rossen Zhelyazkov said he was “mad”, because of the absence from the vote of three Bulgarian MEPs: Svetoslav Malinov (EPP), Nikolay Barekov (ECR) and Nedzhmi Ali (ALDE).
“We have 17 out of 700 MEPs in the European Parliament. These 17 could have decided the match’s result”, he said, speaking a football language the Bulgarian political class considers fashionable.
Malinov said his flight was delayed due to the air control difficulties experienced by the Frankfurt airport. He added that he had always been against the Macron package.
Barekov wrote on Facebook he was absent deliberately, because the Macron package would bring better wages for Bulgarian truck drivers, and because supporting it would only benefit the oligarchs.
Nedzhmi is the only one who hasn’t explained his absence at the time this article is published.
MEP Peter Kouroumbashev, affiliated to the S&D group, said that the chances for passing the Macron package on Wednesday were 50-50.
Undoubtedly, this will put the vote very high in the attention of media – and the public. A David versus Goliath battle is undoubtedly what works best with the public.
Kouroumbashev expressed his regret that from the Romanian side, at least 10 MEPs were missing on Monday, and that three of those present voted for keeping the Macron package on the agenda for the vote on Wednesday.
MEP Andrey Novakov (GERB, EPP) said that Bulgarian MEPs contributed to the 1600+ amendments to the Macron package, and that the vote would probably last three hours. “I have heard that there are Bulgarian colleagues who have changed their position and will vote in favor of the Mobility Package. I want to say that this is not simply my position or my colleagues’, or of any party, this is the national position of Bulgaria that is written together with the drivers and the carriers and when you vote against it, you vote against them, not against me or one of my colleagues here”, he said.
It is expected that truck drivers would protest in Strasbourg at the time of the vote, outside the European Parliament providing colourful footage.
So whatever the result on Wednesday, the Bulgarians will follow the vote. Also, for once, MEPs would be at the center of attention. Isn’t this the best news from the country ahead of the European elections?