Sunday

11th Dec 2016

Investigation

Tensions rise again among Dieselgate MEPs

  • Centre-left chairwoman Van Brempt (l) is accused of protecting fellow MEPs (Photo: European Parliament)

Political infighting seems to have returned to the European Parliament's inquiry committee into the Dieselgate scandal, with the centre-left chairwoman being accused of partiality.

The committee had for several months worked together relatively peacefully, but a meeting of the coordinators of political groups on Thursday (1 September) saw a return to political sneering.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The meeting saw German centre-right MEP Jens Gieseke propose to invite MEPs Bernd Lange and Matthias Groote to testify in front of the committee.

Lange and Groote are both centre-left Germans, and were involved in the drafting of legislation that was relevant to the Volkswagen scandal, which the committee is investigating.

In 1997, Bernd Lange was the MEP who suggested illegal emissions cheating software should be banned. EUobserver interviewed him recently.

Groote was responsible for negotiating on behalf of the EU parliament on current car emissions rules.

But according to several sources present at the meeting, the inquiry committee's chairwoman, centre-left Belgian Kathleen Van Brempt was not in favour of hearing them.

German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel said Van Brempt “showed resistance to the proposal” and only proposed to send written questions to the MEPs. Henkel on Thursday issued a press release in which he accused her of giving her fellow socialist colleagues “some sort of 'immunity'”.

Henkel is also a centre-right member, but from the ECR group, a different unit than Gieseke's EPP.

Van Brempt could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon. She later sent EUobserver a message saying "no decision has been taken". Van Brempt said she would come with a proposal at the end of September.

One contact noted that there was a “clear majority” in favour of hearing from the two German MEPs in one way or the other, but probably in a less confrontational style than the hearings so far, which were conducted in a “ping-pong” fashion of questions and answers.

The source said that it was likely that the debate will take the form of a so-called “exchange of views”, which is usually designed as a round of questions, followed by a broad answer.

The episode is striking because in the past months the investigative committee appeared to have lost some of its partisan edges.

The committee's set-up was opposed by most of the EPP and ECR members, and its first meeting was delayed for months because of political turmoil.

But recently, the committee seemed to work more as a team, with a reluctantly cooperative EU commission as a common adversary.

The reported "reluctance" to invite centre-left MEPs is somewhat uncharacteristic of Van Brempt, who as chairwoman had apparently felt no political reservations to criticise centre-left German Guenther Verheugen as being rude when he had initially turned down an invitation to appear as a witness.

The fact that they are MEPs should also not be an argument, as one MEP is already lined up as a witness.

One of the two witnesses scheduled for Monday (5 September), Antonio Tajani, is not only a former commissioner of industry, but also a current vice-president of the EU parliament, and possible EPP contender for the centre-left-held EU parliament presidency.

That may also be a reason for a return to a sharper contrast between left and right.

Investigation

Why doesn't the EU have a road transport agency?

There are EU agencies covering maritime transport, aviation, and railways, but road transport never got its own. Some MEPs are now advocating one, to the chagrin of many member states.

News in Brief

  1. Council of Europe critical of Turkey emergency laws
  2. Italian opposition presses for anti-euro referendum
  3. Danish MP wants warning shots fired to deter migrants
  4. Defected Turkish officers to remain in Greece
  5. Most child asylum seekers are adults, says Denmark
  6. No school for children of 'illegal' migrants, says Le Pen
  7. Ombudsman slams EU Commission on tobacco lobbying
  8. McDonald's moves fiscal HQ to UK following tax probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  2. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  3. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debated on the Future of the EU at the Winter Mingle
  4. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  5. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  6. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  7. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  9. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  10. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  11. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  12. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First