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French truckers block borders to protest eastern European competition

Hundreds of truckers blocked France's borders with Italy and Belgium on Tuesday, angry at EU rule changes that they say fail to protect them from low-cost eastern European competition.

French truckers block borders to protest eastern European competition
AFP

Drivers began blocking the Frejus tunnel in Modane, eastern France, before dawn, at one point leaving more than 200 heavy goods trucks waiting to cross into Italy.

At Rekkem on the Belgian border there were up to 10 kilometres (six miles) of tailbacks, though officials said the traffic jams had cleared by
mid-morning.

Pascal Goument of the CFTC union said the protest was “a warning for Europe”.

Five truckers' unions wrote to President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday demanding a meeting, blasting the “disastrous consequences” of their industry
being excluded from renegotiated EU regulations.

Macron has been pushing for a revamp of the Posted Workers Directive, which allows workers from lower-wage countries such as Poland to work temporarily in richer EU nations.

Their taxes and social charges are paid at home — often making them cheaper to hire in western Europe than their domestic competitors.

France, which saw a 24-percent hike in posted workers to more than 354,000 last year, has complained that the rules create an unlevel playing field.

Macron reached a compromise with his EU peers in October under which workers can only be posted abroad for 12 months — but with a key concession allowing for a six-month extension at the company's request.

France was also forced to accept that these changes exclude the road transport sector as countries including Poland, Hungary and Spain said the reforms could hurt their drivers.

'Slaves on the road'

Patrick Blaise of the CFDT union said French drivers wanted “equal work for equal pay — right now, not in 10 years.”

Under the current deal, foreign drivers must earn the minimum wage but may not receive other benefits enjoyed by local rivals, such as paid meals or lodging.

“We don't want drivers to be slaves on the road,” Antoine Fatiga of the CGT union told AFP in Modane.

He added: “When they come to work here for two times less than us, we struggle to keep our work.”

Protesting truckers also erected barriers at Strasbourg on the German border, while on the Luxembourg border truckers drove deliberately slowly to snarl traffic.

The Posted Workers Directive, first introduced in 1996, has caused resentment in western countries such as France, Germany and Austria, which argue it amounts to “social dumping”.

But there has been staunch resistance to changing the rules in eastern and central Europe, with Poland benefiting the most.

SEX

France taken to European Court over divorce ruling that woman had ‘marital duty’ to have sex with husband

A case has been brought against France at the European Court of Human Rights by a woman who lost a divorce case after judges ruled against her because she refused to have sex with her husband.

France taken to European Court over divorce ruling that woman had 'marital duty' to have sex with husband
Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

The woman, who has not been named, has brought the case with the backing of two French feminist groups, arguing that the French court ruling contravened human rights legislation by “interference in private life” and “violation of physical integrity”.

It comes after a ruling in the Appeals Court in Versailles which pronounced a fault divorce in 2019 because of her refusal to have sex with her husband.

READ ALSO The divorce laws in France that foreigners need to be aware of

The court ruled that the facts of the case “established by the admission of the wife, constitute a serious and renewed violation of the duties and obligations of marriage making intolerable the maintenance of a shared life”.

Feminist groups Fondation des femmes (Women’s Foundation) and Collectif féministe contre le viol (Feminist Collective against Rape) have backed her appeal, deploring the fact that French justice “continues to impose the marital duty” and “thus denying the right of women to consent or not to sexual relations”.

“Marriage is not and should not be a sexual servitude,” the joint statement says, pointing out that in 47 percent of the 94,000 recorded rapes and attempted rapes per year, the aggressor is the spouse or ex-spouse of the victim.

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