Saturday

22nd Jul 2017

Investigation

Dieselgate leak: EU described own policy as 'complete failure'

  • The car lobby wanted leniency on a new on-road emissions test (Photo: EUobserver)

Three months before the VW scandal broke out in 2015, a senior EU civil servant called the bloc’s diesel-vehicle emissions policy “an almost complete failure” and urged the commission to “mitigate” car industry concerns over a new on-road test.

The five-page internal note, dated 16 June 2015, was written by Daniel Calleja, who was at the time the director-general at the commission's internal market and industry department.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

It was addressed to Tomasz Husak, the head of cabinet of industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, and seen by EUobserver.

Referring to EU efforts to curb emissions of nitrogen oxides [NOx], a harmful pollutant, he said: “Absolute NOx emissions of diesel vehicles under real driving conditions have hardly changed” despite “various” EU “steps”.

“For the particular aspect of NOx emissions of diesel vehicles the European emission legislation therefore must be considered as an almost complete failure until now,” he said, while noting that EU standards had been successful for other pollutants.

“On the road, a Euro 5 vehicle emits almost the same amount of NOx per km as a Euro 3 vehicle,” Calleja said.

Euro 5 refers to the binding set of emissions standards, which have become more strict with each generation, surpassing the older “Euro 3” rules, and leading, at least in theory, to cleaner air.

Calleja also gave Husak an update of the development of a new on-road emissions test, the so-called real driving emissions (RDE) method.

He said that car lobby group ACEA had expressed concern carmakers would not have time to adapt to the new test.

Calleja said that carmakers “have been strongly focussed” on passing the narrowly defined emissions tests in the laboratory, rather than making diesel cars that are clean on the road during normal driving conditions.

As a way to “mitigate” ACEA's concern, Calleja said the RDE test would be introduced in two steps, in what he frankly described as a “weakening the intentions of the initial Cars 2020 Communication”, a commission strategy paper that came out in 2012.

Calleja said that strict enforcement of the RDE test would only take place during the second phase, which would start around 2020.

He also said that the two-step solution, which was adopted by national governments four months later, still lacked a legal basis.

“For the moment this should be understood as a political intention,” he wrote.

“An appropriate legal justification still needs to be developed, because Euro 6 co-decision legislation in principle applies the respective emission limits without exception and does not allow for such "transitional" measures driven by technology concerns.”

Legal or not?

The paper contained remarks on the legality of carmakers' efforts to pass the test only, which contradict public statements made by commissioner Bienkowska.

“With today’s legislation manufacturers can legally ignore the calibration of NOx emission of diesel vehicles to real driving conditions, which leads to the described problems of NOx emissions,” Calleja wrote.

Bienkowska, in a speech that she gave a year later, criticised carmakers who switched off or turned down the emissions filter under certain conditions, with the excuse that they need to protect the engine.

“What you do is you make the exception the general rule,” said Bienkowska. “That is not acceptable to society. And it is not acceptable to me.”

How the car industry won the EU's trust

Car companies are allowed to do carry out some testing of their own products thanks to some little-noticed legislation inspired by an industry-backed report.

Health experts to study Dieselgate impact

Scientists are aiming to provide a complete picture of the effects of the excess emissions of diesel cars, after they estimated VW's emissions test cheating would lead to 1,200 premature deaths in Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary