MEPs skip hearing scrutinising their role in Dieselgate
By Peter Teffer
A European Parliament meeting aimed at shedding light on what the parliament itself could have done to prevent or detect emissions cheating was suspended on Monday (28 November) because of low attendance.
The parliament's inquiry committee into the Dieselgate scandal scheduled Monday's two-part meeting weeks ago.
The first part heard from Denmark's former minister of environment, Ida Auken, but was attended by less than 10, of the 45 total, MEPs.
“I think we had a good hearing, but the attendance was really very low,” said committee chairwoman Kathleen Van Brempt, a centre-left Belgian MEP.
The second part was supposed to be an exchange of views with former rapporteurs and co-rapporteurs, including centre-left German MEP Bernd Lange.
Lange co-wrote, and negotiated on parliament's behalf, legislation on car emissions relevant to the parliament committee's investigation.
Van Brempt noted that the meeting would be suspended until centre-left German MEP Bernd Lange, chairman of the parliament's committee on international trade (Inta), showed up.
Van Brempt proposed a workaround for Lange's absence.
“Are you sure you want to say to the Inta committee, [Lange] has to leave the Inta committee, to come over here when there is so low attendance?” Van Brempt asked.
“We can do a written procedure as well."
MEP Jens Gieseke, from the centre-right EPP group, supported the written method, as did Seb Dance, his centre-left counterpart.
The inquiry committee has investigated the Dieselgate scandal from various angles. Monday's meeting would have been the only one dedicated purely to the role of the parliament itself.
The cancellation is an anticlimax to months-long political struggle.
The EPP and ECR, another centre-right group, had insisted on hearing from Lange and another centre-left MEP, Matthias Groote. Several press releases were spent on making the case that they should show up, some connecting their reluctance to the fact that they share a political family with chairwoman Van Brempt.
Hans-Olaf Henkel, a German MEP from the ECR, was vocal in his demands to hear from them.
Henkel was initially present at Auken's hearing but left before it finished.
According to his social media, he went to attend parliament's industry committee, which hosted EU digital commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
Lange did eventually show up, minutes after most of the few MEPs present had left.
“I'm well prepared,” he told EUobserver, adding that he was “a little bit frustrated” it did not proceed.
Although the failure can be partly blamed on many committee meetings taking place simultaneously, it is quite clear attendance for the Dieselgate probe meetings has fallen to a core team of MEPs, as the committee's work is nearing its end.
No MEPs from the Greens, the far-left Gue, or the eurosceptic EFDD and ENF groups were present.
The exchange of views was also apparently not as tightly organised as it could be, Van Brempt noted that she “did not know” whether any of the shadow rapporteurs would be present for the hearing.
Belgian MEP Ivo Belet, who was present, since he is also member of the inquiry committee, told EUobserver: “I would have been ready.”