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25th May 2022

EU action on car emissions due next month

  • Bienkowska: “I can assure we won't wait anymore" (Photo: European Commission)

EU industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska is preparing to take legal action against some member states for failing to make car manufacturers follow EU rules on emissions, she said Monday evening (12 September) during a hearing in the European Parliament.

Although she did not name specific member states in danger of being at the receiving end of infringement procedures, Bienkowska did note she was “not at all satisfied” with information she has received on too high emissions from Germany, France, Italy, and the UK.

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The Polish commissioner spoke in Strasbourg to members of the parliament's inquiry committee into the Dieselgate scandal.

The committee is investigating whether the EU institutions, and national governments, could have done more to find out about Volkswagen's emissions cheating.

But recently it has also become more critical about the lack of action by national authorities against other carmakers whose vehicles were clearly emitting way beyond EU limits.

British centre-left MEP Seb Dance asked Bienkowska why no infringement procedures have been started yet against member states.

“We are still waiting for some lacking information from member states,” said the commissioner, adding that she was “not so brave” to start infringement proceedings without first having amassed solid evidence that countries had failed to implement EU legislation.

However, Bienkowska said she would "act as soon as possible".

“You will definitely see some infringement procedures next month,” she said.

Dance asked to confirm: “Definitely?”

Bienkowska said: “Yes."

In the wake of the VW scandal, Germany, France, Italy, and the UK each carried out national investigations into real-world emissions by carmakers.

The reports showed emissions being often much higher than the EU limits, but the countries mostly accepted the carmakers alibis.

While the commission now has the reports, it has also asked for additional details because it does not want to take the national authorities' conclusions at face value.

“I am not at all satisfied with the reactions I got so far. We are on and on repeating our questions and they are not being fully responded to,” Bienkowska said.

Some MEPs, including Luxembourgish Green member Claude Turmes, wondered what more evidence Bienkowska needed.

“For example on penalties, this is not rocket science,” said Turmes.

EU countries should have put in place penalties for the use of emissions cheating software, known as defeat devices in 2009, but for years the commission did little to check if they have done so.

“I can assure we won't wait anymore in the next few weeks with our infringement procedures,” noted Bienkowska.

Environment commissioner Karmenu Vella, who testified in front of the committee after Bienkowska on Monday evening, said the commissioner's remarks were “a very good sign”.

The announcement that she would soon begin infringement procedures “was music to my ears”, Vella noted.

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.

Commission delays legal action on car emissions

EU industry commissioner Bienkowska had promised there would "definitely" be infringement procedures against countries that failed to make car manufacturers follow EU rules.

Unpublished report: Italy's Fiat had high emissions

An Italian report triggered by the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal finds Fiat cars emitting more than double the EU limit. The report was finished in July, but has not been made public.

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