| BRUSSELS, April 27
BRUSSELS, April 27 The EU launched a legal
challenge on Thursday against an Austrian law that requires
foreign drivers to be paid Austria's minimum wage when making
deliveries in the country, in a case that highlights strains
between affluent western Europe and the poorer east.
The European Commission has already launched legal
challenges against similar French and German minimum wage laws,
saying they hamper the functioning of the EU's internal market
and the freedom to provide services.
Truck companies from eastern Europe, where wages are lower,
have taken a big share of the trans-European road freight
business, prompting complaints from hauliers in higher-wage
countries and the introduction of minimum wage laws.
"The application of the Austrian measures to international
transport operations which do not have a sufficient link to
Austria cannot, in the Commission's view, be justified, as it
creates disproportionate administrative burdens which prevent
the internal market from functioning properly," the Commission,
the EU's executive arm, said in a statement.
The "Austrian Act to Combat Wage and Social Dumping"
requires truck drivers unloading or uploading in Austria to be
paid the Austrian minimum wage.
Eastern European countries have complained that such
measures are protectionist and throw up unjustified barriers to
cross-border road transport.
Austria's Ministry for Social and Labour Affairs was not
immediately available for comment on the Commission's move on
Austria has two months to reply to the Commission's
complaint. If no agreement is found the Commission could
eventually take Austria to court.
The Commission will propose a legislative package at the end
of May that aims to set a threshold for when a country's minimum
wage should apply to foreign truck drivers, so that drivers
merely passing through would not face undue administrative and
financial burdens, EU sources have told Reuters.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Gareth Jones)