Wednesday

19th Sep 2018

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us