The Maltese Government is one step closer to registering a significant win in its court case against a controversial provision within the EU Mobility Package that was expected to significantly increase costs for Maltese freight forwarding companies.

In a major development, Advocate General Giovanni Pitruzzella agreed with Government’s arguments and proposed that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) should uphold Malta’s request to annul the rule.

The ‘return of vehicle’ rule obliges heavy goods vehicles to return to their country of establishment every eight weeks.

Malta argued that this “would have a negative impact on the environment, the transport sector and the economy of Malta, as an island state,” adding that “the brunt of this would therefore be shouldered by the consumer.”

The Government noted that the annulment of the provision “would result in significantly lower costs for transport companies and therefore lower costs for consumers,” describing it as “a timely development given the current international scenario.”

Malta argued before the CJEU that the ‘return of vehicle’ rule an article in an EU treaty which requires the EU to take into account the environmental protection requirements and the specific characteristics of transport in each member state when adopting measures concerning transport.

Malta also invoked articles relating to the integration of environmental protection into the implementation of Union policies and activities, and the promotion of a high level of environmental protection.

The Advocate General agreed with Malta that the ‘return of vehicle’ rule had not been sufficiently justified by the European Parliament and the Council, and that it had not taken into account the environmental impact of the increased emissions and fuel consumption resulting from the obligation to return vehicles every eight weeks.

The Advocate General also acknowledged that the rule would seriously affect the standard of living and employment in Malta, as well as the operation of transport facilities, due to the geographical constraints and the existing maritime transport infrastructure. He therefore concluded that the rule should be annulled, as it breached an obligation enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

In a statement, the Maltese Government welcomed this “important opinion” and said it now “looks forward to the Court’s judgement,” which is expected in the course of next year.

The Government also reiterated its commitment to defend the interests of the Maltese transport sector and the environment, and to ensure a fair and balanced mobility framework within the EU.

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