Monday

18th Feb 2019

Investigation

Dieselgate witness contradicts EU commission on test evidence

  • Where are the commission's missing e-mails on suspicious emissions behaviour? (Photo: Marcin Wichary)

Giovanni de Santi, a high-ranking official of the EU's science body, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), told MEPs on Thursday (1 December) that minutes were taken of meetings about a new on-road emission test, in contradiction to what the European Commission told EUobserver.

The meeting in the European Parliament also saw a heated exchange between the JRC's chief Vladimir Sucha and Green MEP Claude Turmes from Luxembourg, accusing each other of lying in raised voices.

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

  • JRC's head Sucha was accused of preventing MEPs access to e-mails, an accussation Sucha refuted (Photo: European Commission)

The exchange took place in the context of the parliament's inquiry committee into the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

The committee is looking into whether European institutions could have been expected to do more to prevent or detect the German carmakers' cheating on emissions tests.

The role of the JRC is important because it was involved in discussions about a more accurate emissions test.

The discussions, which took place in the commission-chaired Real Driving Emissions (RDE) working group, were delayed because car industry representatives were given the opportunity to repeatedly raise objections.

The commission told EUobserver in a response to a freedom of information requests that no minutes were kept of the meetings, because the commission did not see the “added value”.

De Santi, who in that period was in charge of the JRC's Vehicle Emissions Laboratories, told MEPs records were kept.

“The minutes are there. We took minutes about all the discussions, all the conclusions,” he said.

It took almost two years for the working group, which relied heavily on participants from the car industry, to reach a decision on the method for testing.

“We did not reach any kind of consensus among the participants in the RDE group, up until October 2012,” said De Santi.

But as Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy pointed out, some 60 percent of the participants came from the car industry, who may not have been interested in reaching consensus quickly.

De Santi noted that the issue was also “very difficult politically”, referring to a technical committee of member state representatives who had to take the final decision.

Before De Santi's testimony, his boss Vladimir Sucha was questioned.

He was accused by MEP Turmes for preventing the inquiry committee to see certain e-mails.

The committee had asked for all e-mail and letter exchanges between the JRC and commission directorates-general on industry, environment, and climate, concerning car emissions testing and legislation.

“We have not received a single mail in the whole period January 2010 - November 2010,” said Turmes.

If no e-mails were sent in that period, that would be quite “odd”, the committee's chairwoman Kathleen Van Brempt noted.

Indeed, it was in that period that the JRC prepared a report which it presented in November 2010 to the commission and member states, which led to the creation of the aforementioned RDE working group.

“I would really love to see your evidence for what you are saying now,” Sucha responded to Turmes' accusation that he had “blocked” e-mails from reaching the MEPs.

“I hope you are not in the post-fact society where everybody is saying whatever without the evidence,” he added, before both men interrupted each other with raised voices.

According to Van Brempt, the committee sent another request to the commission on Thursday morning.

“The commission says that they are still looking and looking,” said Van Brempt.

A third witness said something which may explain the missing e-mails, although it would be quite worrying.

“We have a system to archive the e-mails that are considered important and relevant,” said Giorgio Martini, who works at the JRC's Vehicle Emissions Laboratories.

“Then we have an automatic system deleting the e-mails older than six months. If you do not have saved this mails in folders, you will lose them.”

It later emerged that the e-mail system to which Martini referred has been in place only since July 2015. This means it cannot explain the missing e-mails from 2010.

This article was updated on Monday 5 December to add the last paragraph

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.

Visual Data

Top 100 European places where Dieselgate 'kills' most

In Europe, more than a third of those killed each year by toxic particulate matter - associated with unlawful diesel emissions exceeding the EU limits - live in about 100 conurbations, mainly in Italy, France, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us