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30th Apr 2017

Investigation

Germany, Italy may block anti-Dieselgate measures

  • Germany is opposed to greater EU oversight in how cars approved, despite the Dieselgate experience (Photo: Márcio Cabral de Moura)

There is a blocking minority in one of the EU's legislators which can stop increased oversight at EU level in the area of car approvals, EUobserver has learned.

According to an internal document of the Council, where national governments meet, at least 12 member states are opposed to the European Commission's proposal to have more powers to test cars independently.

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The commission proposed more EU oversight to prevent a repeat of the Dieselgate scandal, but the document showed that large member states like Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom oppose it.

Together with several smaller member states, they constitute a blocking minority. The commission's plan needs the approval from both the Council and the European Parliament before it can become law.

The contents of the internal document, a questionnaire filled out by most member states, was first reported by Brussels-based consumer lobby group Beuc.

“Several member states are failing to address the deep rooted problems associated with the Dieselgate scandal and are risking derailing current efforts to reform the system of approving and checking cars in Europe,” the non-profit group said in a statement.

The document, dated 25 November 2016, was also seen by EUobserver, and it looked authentic.

Its contents were corroborated by an official, publicly available Council document.

A note from the Maltese presidency of the Council, to be presented to ministers next week, said that “a significant number of delegations continue to express serious doubts” about greater EU oversight.

The presidency added that the proposed creation of a forum that could exchange information on how emissions compliance is enforced was also contentious.

“Delegations are divided between those who consider the Forum as an information exchange platform and those who conceive it as an enforcement tool,” it said.

There was also still no common position in the Council on the idea of national type-approval authorities, responsible for approving cars, conducting peer reviews.

“Member states are divided between those that see it as a contribution to an increased uniform enforcement of the rules and those that reject it on the grounds that it would create unjustified administrative burden,” it said.

The opposition among several member states towards greater EU oversight, despite the Dieselgate scandal, was also referred to by EU industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska recently.

“I generally see no shift of attitude in the industry, but also unfortunately in the member states' authorities in this matter,” she told MEPs who investigated the scandal, last week.

The parliament's inquiry committee into Dieselgate, and reports by this website, indicated that Volkswagen's emissions cheating with diesel passenger cars may have been detected earlier, and may have been found in the EU instead of in the US, if there had been an independent authority.

The process of approving cars is still a very national affair, with carmakers often receiving certifications in countries where they also have a large stake in the local economy.

Dieselgate: MEPs want to give EU more testing powers

EU Commission should have power to veto national car testing programmes, MEPs in lead committee agreed. Meanwhile EU commissioner Bienkowska says member states have learned little from emissions crisis.

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