Monday

18th Dec 2017

Investigation

Dieselgate report 'cannot be ignored'

  • MEPs said that maladministration by national governments and by the European Commission created a favourable environment for emissions cheating by Volkswagen. (Photo: European Parliament)

After 47 hearings and almost one year of investigating how car manufacturers in Europe cheated on emissions, the European Parliament's inquiry committee adopted its final report.

The committee on the Dieselgate scandal wrapped up its work on Tuesday (28 February) when a large majority of 37 MPs endorsed its findings.

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  • The committee chaired by Kathleen Van Brempt (l) held 47 hearings and examined minutes of backroom meetings and e-mails. (Photo: European Parliament)

It concluded, based on minutes of backroom meetings, e-mails from EU civil servants, and wide-ranging interviews, that maladministration by national governments and by the European Commission created a favourable environment for emissions cheating.

It blamed Italy, Spain, France, Slovak Republic, Romania, and Hungary delays in setting up real driving emissions tests that would have reduced opportunities for fiddling.

If member states and the European Commission had followed EU law, the Volkswagen emissions fraud would have been detected in Europe instead of in the US, the committee's chairwoman said at a press conference after the vote.

“This is a report that cannot be ignored”, said chairwoman Kathleen Van Brempt, a centre-left Belgian MEP.

German centre-right MEP Jens Gieseke, who co-wrote the Dieselgate committee’s report, said: “Many things went wrong, at commission level, at member state level, industry did many things wrong."

Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, the other co-writer, said the issue at stake was a health risk rather than consumer deception.

“The biggest victims of this scandal are not Volkswagen or Volkswagen car owners, it's the people who live in the streets where these cars drive and where they emit 20, 30, 40 times the legal limits,” he said.

The report is non-binding, but Gerbrandy said it had political weight.

“This is the final report of an inquiry committee, the first inquiry committee in 10 years,” he said.

The committee’s conclusions are now final, but its recommendations may still be amended in a plenary session, probably in April.

It recommended that “only stronger oversight at EU level can ensure that the EU legislation on vehicles is properly enforced”.

It also called for “a European Vehicle Surveillance Agency” that would double-check national certification procedures and would have the power to do its own car tests.

The agency proposal was less popular than the conclusions and scraped through by 23 votes against 21.

German eurosceptic MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel told EUobserver he voted against the report.

“I have nothing against oversight, but I don't think we need a European agency, with a lot of people at the expense of the taxpayer,” he said.

The committee’s work was politicised in other ways.

A Dutch Green MEP had wanted to include a critical reference to the role of former EU industry commissioner and current EU parliament president Antonio Tajani.

But the reference was quashed by Tajani’s centre-right EPP group and by an abstention from the centre-left S&D faction.

The committee chairwoman, the S&D’s Van Brempt said that to single out Tajani would have amounted to a “political game”.

Gerbrandy, the Liberal co-author of the final report, said the focus should stay on the overall conclusion.

“Dieselgate could have been avoided if member states and the commission had followed European law. That is quite something,” he said.

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.

Agenda

Brexit, Syria and Greece on the agenda This WEEK

The European Parliament will adopt its position on the UK's exit, and eurozone finance ministers will try to break a deadlock on the Greek bailout talks. Meanwhile in Brussels, there will be discussions on ending the war in Syria.

Analysis

EU transport sector has a CO2 problem

Although car manufacturers are reaching their CO2 targets for their fleets, car usage has gone up in Germany, while the gap between lab results and actual fuel consumption has increased.

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