Monday

18th Mar 2019

Investigation

'Easy to say' EU should have found VW scandal

  • 'The decision process in the European Union is slow. We know this' (Photo: European Parliament)

A former top EU official told members of the European Parliament's inquiry committee into the Dieselgate scandal that, even in hindsight, he would not have done anything differently about EU's anti-pollution policy.

“Of course you can easily say now that we could have acted earlier, in a shorter period of time, and we could even have tried to discover defeat devices. But this is easy to say,” said Stavros Dimas in front of the inquiry committee on Thursday (14 July).

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

Dimas was environment commissioner from 2004 to 2010.

Defeat devices are elements in a car that reduce the effectiveness of the anti-pollution system. They are forbidden, but Volkswagen Group (VW) used them when cheating on the emissions test.

VW only admitted to cheating after authorities in the United States confronted the company with high emissions on the road compared to the test results.

The European Parliament is investigating whether the EU and national governments could have done more to detect that carmakers were cheating.

MEPs also want to know why improved methods to test emissions were not introduced sooner.

Dimas blamed EU decision making in general.

“The decision process in the European Union is slow. We know this,” said Dimas. “So it takes really long. This is the reason I said I would have preferred a shorter period to have the better test.”

The 75-year old Greek did not put the blame on the industry department of the commission, or the man who headed it in the same period: Guenter Verheugen.

“I had the honour and pleasure to work together with Mr Verheugen, who was a dedicated European,” said Dimas. “He worked very hard for the promotion for the interests of Europe.”

Some MEPs suspect the industry directorate of the commission of having delayed the publication of a study on emissions from the commission's science body, the Joint Research Centre.

“I do not remember any obstruction,” said Dimas.

He was also asked about the practice of carmakers who equip their cars with defeat devices to protect the engine, something that is allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Manufacturers have used them in situations that can hardly be considered as exceptional, for instance, when it is colder than 17C outside.

“There are flexibilities [in the law] and the industry in my opinion is overstretching these flexibilities … In my personal legal opinion, this can be against the spirit of the law,” said Dimas.

He would however not say if Renault - which had used the lower than 17C threshold - had used a defeat device.

“I do not know the technical details and I cannot give an answer. It would be irresponsible of me,” said Dimas.

Clean air or clean labs?

Earlier in the day, the committee interrogated the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), a Brussels-based car lobby group.

It asked ACEA's Paul Greening whether the industry thought it was against the spirit of the law that emissions on the road were so much higher than in the test laboratory.

“We believe the emission limits are related to the test procedures,” said Greening.

Dimas was the first former politician to testify in front of the committee. The next hearing will be after the summer break, with Dimas' former colleague Verheugen.

Car makers caught out on dodgy EU claim

Carmakers claim they don't know what "normal" driving conditions are in terms of EU law. But their own lobby group already decided 14 years ago.

Dieselgate MEPs let ex-commissioners off hook

The European Parliament's Dieselgate inquiry committee will not pursue Erkki Liikanen and Margot Wallstrom to testify, accepting that their mandates were too long ago.

News in Brief

  1. Third Brexit vote this week only if DUP will support it
  2. Germany's two largest banks confirm merger talks
  3. Serbian pro-democracy protests reach 15th week
  4. 'Yellow Vest' riots leave Paris shops vandalised
  5. European woman older when having first baby
  6. Majority of Germans want Merkel to stay on
  7. Asylum applications in the EU down to 580,800 in 2018
  8. Children's climate school strikes turn global on Friday

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us