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Shippers have called on the EC to help ensure the movement of goods in France, which is suffering strikes that have impacted traffic on the Rhine.

Inland waterway transport has been restricted on the Rhine and on French waters, causing delays. Blockades at locks are also resulting in additional costs, said the European Shippers Council (ESC) and European Barge Union (EBU).

“Although the free movement of goods is not an ‘absolute freedom’, in our view it should be guaranteed as much as possible,” said Godfried Smit and Theresia Hacksteiner, the secretary generals of ESC and EBU.

“The current situation in France is of great concern to us. Actions by the Rhine Commission towards the French authorities so far only had limited results. Also, a number of vessels on the Rhone are prevented from sailing between two lock complexes.

“This situation leads to major negative consequences, in particular lots of additional costs, for the European economy, but also causes great inconvenience to the crews involved.”

The two associations referred to an European Court of Justice judgment which established that a member state has a duty to act against individuals which undermine the effectiveness of EU provisions. The pair urged the EC to pressure France, which has faced protests over the decision to raise the pension age.

The strikes have at times brought Rhine river traffic to a standstill, with Germany and Switzerland also affected. Police have cleared blockades at locks, but there have still been delays, with Germany’s Waterways and Shipping Administration noting last month that “the whole international Rhine navigation is practically interrupted”.

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