Monday

18th Mar 2019

Investigation

Dieselgate isn't my fault, says German transport minister

  • Dobrindt (r) said the VW scandal “came as a surprise” (Photo: European Parliament)

German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt has told MEPs he is not responsible for the failure to detect Volkswagen's cheating on emissions tests.

“Volkswagen has cheated, so only Volkswagen is responsible for this fraud,” he told members of the European Parliament's inquiry committee on Thursday (20 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The scandal came to light after US authorities pressed the German carmaker to explain high emissions measured outside the laboratory.

However, Dobrindt said the scandal “came as a surprise”, despite several strong hints available to member states for years that something was wrong.

Instead, the centre-right politician focused on the German position that EU emissions legislation leaves too much room for interpretation.

Dobrindt said exception to the ban on cheating software, which allows their use when needed to protect the engine, can be too easily invoked by carmakers.

German Liberal MEP Gesine Meissner pointed out at the hearing that the German government had agreed to the legislation in 2007.

Dobrindt replied: “The rules are from 2007. If you want to know what happened, you need to talk to the people who were there in 2007.”

Meissner's Danish colleague, Christel Schaldemose, asked if the German government had ever asked the commission for clarification on the rules before the Volkswagen scandal broke in September 2015.

In his answer, Dobrindt only spoke about the situation since September 2015.

“Okay, so the answer is no,” said Schaldemose.

Dobrindt, transport minister since 2013, also said he could not comment on why negotiations for a new on-road emissions test took so long. The talks started in 2011, and were finished in 2015.

Belgian MEP Lieve Wierinck wanted to know if the test could have been adopted quicker, and what the main obstacles were.

But Dobrindt said he could not answer those questions, saying: "I wasn't there."

Dobrindt was also questioned about the investigation into real-world emissions in models other than those that the Volkswagen Group had admitted were equipped with cheating software known as defeat devices.

He said it was “false” that Germany was treating car companies differently based on their origins and insisted that they "apply the same yardstick on everyone".

In a press release sent out shortly after the hearing, Green MEP Bas Eickhout called the hearing “deeply disappointing”.

“He chose to place the blame exclusively on weak European regulation, conveniently ignoring the role of his own ministry in the law-making process,” said the left-wing Dutchman.

However, some of Dobrindt's political family members appeared to have disagreed with Eickhout's negative assessment.

Unusually for an inquiry hearing, it ended with applause from some MEPs, mostly Germans from centre-right groups.

EU told of possible emission cheating in 2012

The Joint Research Centre said in 2012 that a diesel vehicle was emitting much more nitrogen oxide (NOx) when the outside temperature was different from the laboratory parameters.

Fiat questions 'fantastical' EU emissions tests

Italian-American car maker Fiat had "no explanations" for tests showing its cars polluted above EU limits when questioned by MEPs, described some tests as “fantastical”.

News in Brief

  1. Third Brexit vote this week only if DUP will support it
  2. Germany's two largest banks confirm merger talks
  3. Serbian pro-democracy protests reach 15th week
  4. 'Yellow Vest' riots leave Paris shops vandalised
  5. European woman older when having first baby
  6. Majority of Germans want Merkel to stay on
  7. Asylum applications in the EU down to 580,800 in 2018
  8. Children's climate school strikes turn global on Friday

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us