Wednesday

26th Sep 2018

Investigation

EU capitals at fault on emissions, commissioner says

  • Bienkowska told states to concentrate on national enforcement rather than demanding a rewrite to EU rules (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

National governments should start enforcing EU rules on car emissions properly rather than complaining about them, EU industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska told transport ministers on Tuesday (7 June).

She rejected a proposal by Germany to change the EU regulation on so-called defeat devices, which are often installed in diesel cars to limit the effect of, and sometimes switch off, the emissions control system.

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

  • German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt (l) with his UK counterpart Patrick McLoughlin (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

“I have not been convinced today for the need for legislative amendment,” she said in Luxembourg.

Defeat devices are banned under EU law. But the law contains an exception that such devices can be used when they are needed to protect the engine.

Carmakers have taken a very broad approach to defining the conditions in which engines need to be protected. For example, one manufacturer's defeat device kicks in when outside temperatures fall below 17C.

Critics say national authorities could challenge car manufacturers because the emissions control system is supposed to be active during "normal use".

Germany's transport ministry found in April that carmakers widely use the engine protection exemption.

It concluded that the 2007 EU rules, to which Germany and other EU states had also agreed, were too vague and proposed a change.

But Bienkowska said a change to the wording of the relevant regulation “will not solve the problems”.

While car companies “have not acted in good faith”, the Polish commissioner noted it was a lack of enforcement on a national level that had led to an environment in which carmakers believed they could “get away with it”.

The rules on emissions are agreed at an EU level, but market surveillance is in the hands of national watchdogs.

“Defeat devices are an enforcement problem,” said Bienkowska.

She then told member states that if they want to make progress on the issue, they should look at their national implementation first, instead of criticising the European rules.

“You have to first strengthen your national enforcement authority, carry out audits of your [test laboratories] and check whether your national fines are really appropriate,” she said.

The Polish official added that the commission was available for help with interpreting the legislation, and to make sure that market surveillance authorities take a common approach.

But she also noted that for the commission to do that, member states needed to share the “technical information” they gathered in their emissions investigations carried out after the Volkswagen scandal, adding that some have not yet done so.

Recent investigations by EUobserver show that member states have failed to put in place substantial enough penalties for the use of defeat devices, with some countries having very low fines.

Emissions cheats face tiny fines in some EU states

Fines for car firms that cheat tests in the EU range from €7 million to €1,000. EU commission itself unsure to what extent states complied with rules on "dissuasive" penalties.

Analysis

EU governments duck responsibility on dieselgate

If VW had cheated on emissions in the Netherlands, its fine would have been just €19,500. “I didn't think about the fines before,” the Dutch transport minister says.

Interview

Learn from US on emissions, says former EPA chief

Europe should increase fines on emissions-cheating software and monitor carmakers more closely, says a former senior official at the US Environmental Protection Agency.

News in Brief

  1. UN chief: World suffering from 'trust deficit disorder'
  2. Stalemate in Sweden as parliament ousts prime minister
  3. Migrant rescue ship heading to French port
  4. EU angry at British tabloids on Brexit
  5. UK to allow EU flights in no-deal Brexit
  6. Greek reporters arrested after story on 'mishandled' EU funds
  7. Austrian minister urges police to out foreign sex offenders
  8. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  2. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  3. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  4. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  5. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  6. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  7. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  8. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us