Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

Investigation

VW lobbyist met German EU commissioner

Germany's EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger had a meeting last January with Volkswagen Group about the cheating scandal, despite the issue not being part of his portfolio.

Neither Volkswagen's Brussels office nor Oettinger's spokeswoman responded to a request for a comment, but the meeting was listed on the Integrity Watch website.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Oettinger, in charge of digital economy, met with VW to discuss "diesel emissions" (Photo: European Commission)

The site is an initiative by NGO Transparency International, but the data is supplied by the EU commission itself.

According to the entry, Oettinger met someone from the German company on 25 January 2016. The topic, as flagged by the commission, was “diesel emissions”.

It was one of 30 meetings that Volkswagen Group (VW) had with commissioners, their cabinets, and directors-general (the highest departmental civil servants) of the EU's executive branch since records began in December 2014 under Jean-Claude Juncker's leadership.

Oettinger met with Volkswagen Group four times. The other three appointments were about Oettinger's portfolio, the digital economy.

There were 12 meetings between high-level commission staff and VW before 18 September 2015, when the German company's widespread cheating on emissions tests became public.

Most of the 18 meetings since then have been about the scandal.

“Probably not because Volkswagen wanted to, but because the commission summoned them,” said Daniel Freund of Transparency International.

He told EUobserver that EU commissioners are “free to see whoever they want”, and noted that as members of the college of commissioners, they sometimes needed opinions on topics outside their dossier because they participate in all votes.

Two days after Oettinger met VW, there was a debate in the weekly college meeting about a proposal for a reform of the way cars are approved for the European market.

But according to the minutes, the German commissioner had left the meeting before the agenda point on cars was reached.

It is not clear who requested the meeting between Oettinger and Volkswagen, but Freund wondered why Volkswagen would want to meet Oettinger, even if he is also German.

“If I wanted to influence someone, I'd go to the commissioner in charge,” the transparency campaigner noted.

For the car industry, that would be Polish commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska. She met with VW five times since the scandal broke, most recently on 30 June 2016.

Those meetings were probably not too nice for VW, as Bienkowska wants the company to compensate Europeans for the cheating, which VW has so far refused to do.

Oettinger is known for talking publicly about issues outside his portfolio, also when he was still commissioner for energy under the previous commission.

It was in that position that in 2012 media reported Oettinger had sent a letter to then VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, reassuring him that new targets for car CO2 emissions were not as high as initially announced.

€2.8 million on lobbying

Volkswagen, like other car companies, has spent considerable amounts of money on lobbying in Brussels.

According to VW's own entry into the transparency register, updated earlier this month, the company spent €2.8 million on lobbying in Brussels in 2015.

The figure is somewhat lower than the amount it spent in 2014, €3.3 million, but considerably higher than the average sum it spent annually in the years 2010-2013, when lobby spending was around €1 million.

VW 'seems' to have broken EU laws

EU commission trying to help consumers seek compensation from Volkswagen, whose emissions cheating appears to have breached two EU laws.

Oettinger left no trace of VW Dieselgate meeting

EU commissioner for the digital economy and society, Guenther Oettinger, met with German carmakers in January to discuss "diesel emissions", even though the topic is not in his portfolio.

Investigation

Porsche told EU not to publish diesel emission result

The EU Commission has kept results of an emissions test of a Porsche diesel vehicle secret for months, at the request of the German car company - which was fined €535m for its role in the Dieselgate scandal.

News in Brief

  1. European populists more favourable to Russia
  2. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  3. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  4. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected
  5. Germany: Tehran should hold dialogue with protesters
  6. US ex-diplomat: Trump's 'historical mistake' on EU
  7. France's MoDem finance director indicted on EP funds
  8. Cyprus hopes for reunification talks in December

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us