The Council and the Parliament launch urgent temporary measures for Ukrainian driver documents
In response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, the Council and the European Parliament agreed on introducing through urgent procedure specific and temporary measures concerning Ukrainian driver documents.
The legislative proposal is linked to the reception of Ukrainian refugees and aims at reducing the administrative requirements normally applying to third country drivers when driving within the EU. This innovative measure alleviates the administrative burden on Ukrainian refugees as regards driving documents and, at the same time, provides a harmonised approach for the duration of temporary protection.
The recognition and exchange of third country driving licences is not governed by EU rules. The Commission has put forward this proposal recognising that the problem, due to its scale and effects as a consequence of the war, needs a harmonised regulatory framework. It will be strictly linked to the temporary protection to refugees from Ukraine granted initially by a Council Decision on 4 March. The aim is twofold: on the one hand, to contribute to the social and economic integration of Ukrainian refugees in the Member State of reception; on the other hand, to maintain a high level of road safety in the Union.
The regulation provides the conditions for the recognition of driving licences and driver qualification cards issued by Ukraine, the extension of the validity of expired driver documents issued by Ukraine, verification procedures in case of lost or stolen driving licences issued by Ukraine, the prevention of fraud or forgery, as well as the monitoring of its implementation by the Commission.
Following today’s vote by the European Parliament of amendments that the Council could also support, the Council will proceed to an adoption of its position in the legislative procedure as quickly as possible. Due to the urgency of the matter, the regulation shall enter into force on the fifth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
In the first ten weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started on 24 February 2022, more than five million people have left Ukraine, fleeing the armed conflict and seeking shelter in neighbouring countries, mostly in the European Union. As early as 4 March 2022, the EU established the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine and offered temporary protection to the displaced people. Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/382 of 4 March 2022 sets out the categories of persons entitled to temporary protection or adequate protection under national law. Temporary protection entails the right to be issued a residence permit for the entire duration of the protection and to have access, among others, to accommodation, schools, health care, and jobs. A residence permit issued by one Member State brings with it the right to travel within the Union for 90 days within a 180-day period.
A driving licence enhances the mobility of its holder and facilitates everyday life as it allows for driving power-driven vehicles on public roads. In the given context, it promotes the participation of persons enjoying temporary protection or adequate protection under national law in economic and social activities in their new environment.
The rules and procedures related to the recognition and exchange of third country driving licences differ from one Member State to another, depending among others on the specific provisions of their national legislation or in the existing bilateral agreements between the Member States and the third country in question. In the case of persons enjoying temporary protection or adequate protection under national law with a valid driving licence issued by Ukraine, it is appropriate to provide for a harmonised framework for the recognition of driving licences within the territory of the Union, for as long as the period of temporary protection lasts.
As a general rule, persons enjoying temporary protection or adequate protection under national law who hold a valid driving licence issued by Ukraine should be able to use their driving licence on EU territory for as long as the temporary protection lasts. In view of the temporary nature of the protection, there should be no need to exchange a Ukrainian driving licence for one issued by a Member State. This considerably eases the burden on the competent authorities of the Member States, as they would otherwise potentially have to exchange millions of Ukrainian driving licences. At the same time, persons enjoying temporary protection or adequate protection under national law will not have to immediately pass another theoretical and/or practical driving licence test – often in a foreign language to them – and/or undergo medical examinations in the Member State of their temporary residence.
As outlined in the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes action plan, access of professional drivers from Ukraine to employment in the European Union should be facilitated, by defining specific rules concerning the issuance of certificates of professional competence to Ukrainian professional drivers. In the context of the overall growing shortage of truck drivers, EU-Ukraine alternative logistical links and Ukraine’s continued access to its export markets ought to be strengthened in the aftermath of the current blockage of its Black Sea ports. Driving licences and certificates of professional competence are usually subject to a limited period of validity. As long as the war rages in Ukraine, however, Ukraine may likely not be able to ensure the administrative support necessary to individually renew these documents. In this extraordinary situation, the Ukrainian government could decide to extend the validity of these documents. In that case, the Union and the Member States should be adequately informed by Ukraine of such extensions. Member States should recognise an extended validity of Ukrainian driving licences going beyond their administrative period of validity, at least until the end of the period of temporary protection.
The circumstances of fleeing war often entail the loss or theft of important documents, such as driving licences or certificates of professional competence, or their leaving behind in the war zone without an immediate possibility of recovering them. In such cases, subject to verification, for instance, in the national electronic driving licence register of Ukraine, Member States should be in a position to issue temporary licences that replace the original ones for the duration of the temporary protection. Access to the Ukrainian driving licence register by the competent authorities of the Member States would facilitate such a step. Without the possibility of verifying the authenticity of the information provided by the displaced persons, Member States should refuse to issue such temporary driver documents.
Finally, the provisions of this regulation address exceptional circumstances and lay down exemptions which should not be replicated under normal circumstances. It is therefore especially important that the enforcement of this regulation is not conducive to putting road users and pedestrians at risk, by allowing people unfit to drive to do so on the EU roads. In that context, adequate measures should be implemented by the competent authorities of the Member States for the purpose of combatting fraud and forgery.