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17th Nov 2018

Investigation

French minister Royal snubs EU Dieselgate committee

  • French environment minister Royal (r) talking to EU climate chief Canete (Photo: European Commission)

French environment minister Segolene Royal has declined an invitation to appear in front of the European Parliament's Dieselgate inquiry committee, sending transport minister Alain Vidalies instead, parliament sources told EUobserver.

Royal's excuse reportedly is that none of the proposed dates fit her agenda.

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She was initially invited for a session on 7 November 2016, in a week which according to her public agenda is still void of appointments.

When this website asked a spokesman for more information, weeks ago, he asked to send an e-mail to the secretariat, to which no reply came.

Sources close to the inquiry committee noted that Royal did have time to appear in front of the plenary session of the EU parliament next week in Strasbourg, to discuss the global climate agreement achieved last year in Paris.

But despite “multiple dates” being offered for the car hearing, the French minister reportedly said she was unavailable.

The inquiry committee was set up after it emerged carmaker Volkswagen Group had cheated on emission tests. It is trying to establish if EU and national authorities could have done more to reduce dangerous emissions from diesel cars, a problem which extends far beyond VW's fraud.

Royal would have faced questions about a committee which bears her name.

According to a report published by the Royal committee, set up after the VW scandal, the lack of public checks on whether emissions in the real world reflect those tested in the laboratory “constitutes incitement to fraud”.

The Royal report was published on a Friday afternoon at the end of July, when many French and other Europeans were on holiday.

Royal's stand-in will also have to explain accusations that the report tried to “cover up” for Renault, a company in which the French state is a shareholder.

French Green MEP Karima Delli, one of the inquiry committee's vice-chairs, denounced Royal's "silence".

"One year after Dieselgate, Segolene Royal keeps burying her head in the sand, and refuses to face her responsibility as Minister for the environment in charge of air quality," she told EUobserver in a written statement.

'Exchange of views' with MEPs

Meanwhile, the EU parliament's Dieselgate committee has also decided how to gather evidence from their fellow MEPs responsible for car legislation.

At a meeting of coordinators from each political group, it was decided on Thursday (29 September) that centre-left MEPs Bernd Lange and Matthias Groote would be invited to the committee.

The two were rapporteurs who negotiated relevant car legislation on behalf of the parliament.

However, unlike the other witnesses, they will be questioned in a more informal, soft-touch way.

Several parliament sources confirmed that the debate will take the form of what is known in Brussels corridors as an “exchange of views”.

That format is a lot less confrontational than the committee's usual hearings, which have questions and answers going back and forth in a ping-pong matter.

A majority of the coordinators thought that format was most suitable, because unlike ministers like Royal or former EU commissioners, rapporteurs negotiate on behalf of the entire parliament, and are not politically accountable for the content of their reports.

The idea is being floated that MEPs who acted as shadow rapporteurs may also be invited.

However, that may cause two obstacles. One: as many as 10 such MEPs involved in drafting the text have already been identified. Two: many of them are no longer a member of the parliament and cannot be forced to appear.

Slovakia rebuffs jibes over Dieselgate no-show

Transport minister Arpad Ersek is the only invited minister who has refused to testify before MEPs on Dieselgate, which is awkward as the Slovaks currently hold the six-month presidency of the Council.

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