19th Mar 2018


EU countries snub commission on emissions penalties

  • Using emissions cheating software in tractors is banned in the EU, but the Commission formally has no idea what penalties are in place (Photo: Andrew Stawarz)

EU states are snubbing requests from the European Commission to provide details on the way they have attempted to crack down on emissions cheating by manufacturers of tractors and trucks, an investigation by this website has found.

Environmental lobby groups have accused national governments of continuing to protect their domestic industries a year after the Dieselgate scandal, when VW Group was exposed as having fitted its passenger cars with cheating software known as defeat devices.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Before the Dieselgate scandal broke in September 2015, the commission did not have a complete picture how states would punish carmakers for using emissions cheating software.

Following the revelation that VW had used such cheating software, which has been banned since the late 1990s, the commission took a renewed interest in how member states had implemented their obligation to lay down dissuasive penalties for violating EU legislation on passenger cars.

But while the focus this past year has been on implementing passenger cars legislation, this website has now found that a similar problem exists in legislation on tractors and trucks.

In November 2015, two months after the Volkswagen scandal broke, the EU's executive sent a letter to member states asking them what penalties they had laid down in national law to deter the use of illegal software in tractors and other vehicles used in agriculture and forestry.

They were supposed to have informed the commission earlier that year, but only the three Baltic states were on time. Despite the commission's nudge on 18 November 2015, only six of the EU's 28 member state have now complied with the commission's request: Cyprus, Estonia, Finland Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands.

This means that the commission officially has no idea how the other 22 member states are deterring the use of defeat devices in tractors.

By not informing the commission, the other 22 member states have broken their own promises.

In 2013, all 27 members – Croatia was not yet a member – voted unanimously in favour of new rules on how to approve vehicles used in agriculture and forestry.

Cushioning the industry

EUobserver also saw documents relating to the implementation of fines for trucks and waterborne vehicles.

On trucks, member states were supposed to have sent their information on “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties by 7 February 2011. Only Denmark did so.

Following a 2013 commission letter nudging member states, only eight of them replied with a letter detailing their penalties in the field of truck approvals.

The commission has apparently taken no action since, according to documents provided under the freedom of information request.

A commission spokeswoman confirmed the picture that arose in EUobserver's investigation.

She said that is was "not up to the commission to speculate about reasons behind [member states'] actions.”

“We currently analysing the information received and will assess the need for any further action.”

The spokeswoman also said, somewhat mysteriously, that EUobserver would get “a more substantial comment” if it asked again “in a few weeks”.

Julia Poliscanova of environmentalist lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E), says national governments do not want the commission to meddle in profitable vehicle manufacturing and testing industries.

"They simply failed to put in place strong penalties because they never wanted to penalise anyone, and are still trying to cushion the car industry today, one year after the emissions scandal broke," she said.

Regulation vs directive

Member states were somewhat more well-behaved when it came to implementing the rules for waterborne vehicles such as water scooters. These rules include limits to noise and pollutant emissions.

A main difference is that the watercraft rules were laid down in a directive, which needed to be transposed by 18 January 2016. Up until now 21 of 28 member states have informed the commission of transposition.

While regulations are legally applicable directly in member states, directives require a national law.

Although regulations on cars, trucks, and tractors also required action by national government on the specific penalties to be imposed.

In its reply informing the commission about the implementation of the agriculture vehicles regulation, Latvia noted it would have been better if the regulation had included laying down specific penalties.

Latvia wrote that a “uniform penal system must be in place in all the EU Member States thus, in our opinion, the penalty scheme and its volume must be laid down at the level of the European Union”.

According to Poliscanova, in the current European system with 28 member states "you can never have a situation where each and every word and provision in the law is scrupulously described".

"This is why EU laws, in the area of single market in particular, rely on independent regulators in the member states to correctly and consistently enforce them,” she said.

She added that the Dieselgate scandal had “clearly exposed the failure of the national regulators to do their work and apply the law”.

But according to the EU commission spokeswoman, a required transposition of a provision in regulation is “a common feature of various regulations”.

The issue with trucks and tractors comes after a previous investigation by EUobserver showed that the EU was facing similar difficulties in getting information on passenger cars.

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.

VW diesel repairs could take until 2019

German car company has fixed 5.4 million of the 8.5 million European diesel cars that were equipped with emissions-cheating software. Some consumers have decided to shun Volkswagen Group forever.

News in Brief

  1. Car industry 'increasingly nervous' about Brexit
  2. EU countries 'unqualified solidarity' with UK over attack
  3. Seehofer: EU 'patronising' eastern states on migration
  4. How Facebook data helped Trump and Brexit campaigns
  5. Macron, Merkel pledge eurozone reform plan by June
  6. Sweden emerges as possible US-North Korean summit host
  7. Google accused of paying academics backing its policies
  8. New interior minister: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Latest News

  1. Russia poisoning is not EU concern, Germany says
  2. Kiev wants EU sanctions on former German chancellor
  3. North Korea: time to put the 'E' in engagement
  4. Brexit and trade will top This WEEK
  5. Dutch MPs in plan to shut EU website on Russian propaganda
  6. Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea
  7. Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant
  8. Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction