Saturday

19th Jan 2019

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. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

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. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us