Reuters International

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will launch a challenge on Thursday to a French law requiring foreign truck drivers to be paid the French minimum wage when they make deliveries there, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Operators 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.

The law, due to come into force on July 1, requires foreign transport companies to pay their drivers the French minimum wage when they make deliveries in France and to appoint a representative there.

Brussels views the French law as discriminatory and violating the principle of free movement of goods and services enshrined in the EU treaty, the sources said.

One major problem is applying the French minimum wage to cabotage -- transport operations conducted by a foreign operator after completing an international delivery, aiming to reduce the number of empty runs.

EU law allows a Bulgarian trucking company, for example, to complete up to three deliveries in, say, France, after having delivered goods there within seven days.

The infringement proceeding against France will be adopted on Thursday unless one of the 28 Commissioners objects.

The Commission will also send a further warning to Germany over a similar minimum wage law requiring foreign firms to pay their employees the German minimum wage, whether or not the worker or the employer is based in Germany, the sources added.

Many EU countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, complain that French and German laws throw up unjustified barriers to cross-border road transport.

The German minimum wage is 8.50 euros (7 pounds) per hour while the French minimum is 9.67 euros per hour, both higher than many earn in the Eastern European trucking industry.

The Commission will seek to clarify how truck drivers on cabotage trips should be paid through legislation next year.

EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said last week that Brussels supports minimum wages as long as they are proportionate and fair.

Paris and Berlin will have two months to find an agreement with the Commission, failing which the case could eventually end up in court.

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(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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