Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

Investigation

EU states under pressure for laxity on car emissions

  • Did member states place "dissuasive" penalties on the use of illegal cheating software by car companies? (Photo: Michael Coghlan)

The European Commission is not yet reassured member states have fulfilled their obligations on emissions legislation, and is keeping the option of opening infringement procedures on the table.

The commission is worried EU countries may not have properly introduced “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties for the use of defeat devices, the legal term for cheating software of the type Volkswagen used to fool emissions tests.

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

After the Volkswagen scandal emerged, almost a year ago, the commission asked each of the 28 national governments how they have implemented the penalties requirement, to which they agreed themselves when drawing up the relevant legislation in 2007.

Since then, an exchange of letters has begun between Brussels and the national capitals. Over last months, EUobserver received the majority of them through a freedom of information request.

The commission said it had to ask permission from the member states to release the documents.

On Tuesday (6 September) however, the commission told this website that it had not received permission to release the most recent letters from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

“The documents relate to an ongoing investigation regarding a possible infringement of EU law,” the commission wrote.

It noted that the commission and the member states are in the so-called Pilot procedure, which is a more amicable exchange aimed at resolving issues before it gets to the infringement procedure, which can ultimately lead to fines for member states.

The goal of the Pilot procedures is to avoid infringement procedures, but the “possibility that infringement proceedings will be opened during the EU Pilot procedure cannot ... be ruled out either”, the commission noted.

“For this reason, disclosure of documents in the context of the EU Pilot procedure is also likely to affect the outcome of subsequent infringement proceedings,” it said.

That means that the current commission under leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker might do what the administration under his predecessor, Jose Manuel Barroso, failed to do.

Initially, member states were required to inform the commission about which penalties they had installed for the use of defeat devices in 2009. Not one country was on time.

Subsequently, the commission sent out letters requesting this information in 2013, but received a reply from only eighteen member states. It did nothing to follow-up on those replies, nor did it ask again from the countries that had not sent anything.

The rejection to release documents by the six member states mentioned above, does not automatically prove that the commission will open infringement procedures against these countries, nor does it mean that other countries are already off the hook.

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.

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.

EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling

The Court of Justice of the EU annulled legislation which relaxed toxic emission limits for cars. EU commissioner Bienkowska said the commission will appeal.

Visual Data

Top 100 European places where Dieselgate 'kills' most

In Europe, more than a third of those killed each year by toxic particulate matter - associated with unlawful diesel emissions exceeding the EU limits - live in about 100 conurbations, mainly in Italy, France, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia working on 'Plan B' for Nato
  2. Report: Hungary gagged EU on Israeli settlers
  3. Polls suggest draw after Johnson vs Corbyn TV duel
  4. EU ambassador to testify in Trump impeachment inquiry
  5. Hungary, Poland block EU conclusions on rule of law
  6. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  7. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  8. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us