Thursday

24th Jan 2019

Investigation

Former EU commissioners to testify in emissions probe

  • July 2013: then EU commissioners Potocnik (l) and Tajani visit China. Later that year they exchanged letters on car emissions (Photo: European Commission)

Two former European Commissioners, who may have suspected car companies were fiddling emission tests three years ago, have agreed to appear in front of the European Parliament's inquiry committee into the scandal.

Antonio Tajani and Janez Potocnik have accepted the parliament's invitation, the committee's chairwoman Kathleen Van Brempt told EUobserver. The two were responsible for industry and environment, respectively, under the second commission led by Jose Manuel Barroso (2010-2014).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

In 2013, they exchanged letters that were later published by the Financial Times in which they discussed the “significant discrepancy between the certified emissions and those actually observed on the road”.

Potocnik wrote about “widespread concerns that performance has been tailored tightly to compliance with the test cycle in disregard of the dramatic increase in emissions outside that narrow scope”.

Tajani, who was also transport commissioner under the first Barroso commission, is now a member of the European Parliament, and one of the institution's 14 vice-presidents.

His spokesman said Tajani “will be more than happy” to testify, and was “looking forward” to the hearing.

Increasing pressure on Verheugen

MEPs also want to hear from former industry commissioner Guenther Verheugen (2004-2010). Chairwoman Van Brempt denied rumours that Verheugen had already turned down the invitation.

“The process is ongoing,” she told this website after Thursday's (28 April) hearing. She said that the committee will increase pressure. After a letter from the secretariat, Verheugen will now receive a letter drafted by Van Brempt. She said she'll send it on Friday.

Former environment commissioner Stavros Dimas (2004-2010) is also on the committee's wish list, as are current commissioners Elzbieta Bienkowska (industry) and Karmenu Vella (environment).

A spokeswoman for Bienkowska already confirmed she'll show up.

“From the very outset, commissioner Bienkoswka indicated her readiness to work with the inquiry committee and [to] indeed appear before it,” said spokeswoman Lucia Caudet.

It is customary for commissioners to appear in front of the parliament to maintain good relations. Van Brempt said she expects the current commissioners to do it without any fuss.

The committee's power to force ex-commissioners to appear is limited beyond naming and shaming, however.

The committee also wants to interrogate car industry bosses, including Volkswagen's. The company's managing director in the UK appeared in front of the House of Commons last year.

A different EU parliament investigative committee in the past tried other ways to draw out testimonies.

It said that uncooperative witnesses could be struck out from the EU lobby register.

The EP's special committee into sweetheart tax deals - which had less powerful investigative rights than the dieselgate committee - had received rejection after rejection from companies it had asked to testify.

When some of those companies did show up several months later, it became clear they were not impressed with MEPs’ work.

“We didn't find it relevant to attend this meeting at that point,” said Krister Mattsson, the head of corporate finance at Swedish furniture retailer Ikea.

The hearings with ex-commissioners on the emissions scandal will probably take place in the summer. The next inquiry committee hearing is on 24 May.

Member states stonewall EP tax probe

EU member states are refusing to hand over documents to help the European Parliament's probe into tax abuse by multi-national corporations.

Dieselgate: Looking under the hood

EUobserver will closely follow the hearings and research done by the EU parliament's inquiry committee, as well as investigate aspects of the diesel emissions scandal not covered by the committee's mandate.

News in Brief

  1. Greek parliament to vote on Macedonia name deal
  2. Media cut ties to reporter who plagiarised EU stories
  3. Cyprus to host southern EU summit next week
  4. 'Yellow Vest' protesters to run list in EU elections
  5. Barnier: No-deal preparations 'more important than ever'
  6. Commission offers no-deal Brexit help to EU fisheries
  7. OECD: France and Belgium top social spending
  8. Study: Tax evasion cost five time as much as EU budget

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. EU: Italy's choice to end or continue Operation Sophia
  2. European Space Force should only be for defence, says MEP
  3. The demise of the INF treaty: can the EU save arms control?
  4. Stymied on 'golden passports', EU sets up expert group
  5. Tajani wants second term as EU parliament president
  6. EU commissioner floats idea for European space force
  7. France and Germany hope to revive EU with Aachen treaty
  8. May pushes defeated Brexit deal, offers no Plan B

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us