Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

Commission rift prompts delay on green car regulation

  • Cars in Athens - Greek commissioner Dimas wants binding legislation on car producers. (Photo: EUobserver)

Painful internal divisions within the European Commission have prompted its president Jose Manuel Barroso to postpone an important decision aimed at making cars greener.

A spokeswoman for Mr Barroso on Tuesday (23 January) confirmed that the college of commissioners failed to agree on a decision - supposed to be formally taken on Wednesday - on proposals to force car manufacturers to cut CO2 emissions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The president of the commission has decided to postpone the cars package," she said.

"We simply need a little bit more time to build a large consensus in the commission on the best ways to achieve the objectives that we all agree on."

At the heart of the divisions over the issue is a fight between industry commissioner Günter Verheugen and his environment colleague Stavros Dimas.

Mr Dimas wants to set compulsory targets for car makers who have so far failed to make good on voluntary commitments made in 2004.

However, he is being opposed by Mr Verheugen who does not want the car industry to be bound by mandatory targets.

Under the 2004 agreement, European car makers pledged to reduce CO2 emissions to an industry average of 140 grammes per km, or 25% of 1995 levels by 2008, but are set to miss this target. Asian manufacturers, also not on target, made a similar commitment a year later.

Mr Barroso appears to be more on the side of his environment commissioner, with his spokeswoman saying that "the president believes there is a need for legislation to meet the targets which are set by the commission."

Brussels will now only in "one of the next meetings" decide on a compromise, representing a painful setback just weeks after Mr Barroso on 10 January announced that the EU would take the lead in a new "industrial revolution" towards a low-emission economy.

"As was the case with the [10 January] energy and climate package, where there was total consensus, the president would like to have the same degree of consensus on this package," the spokeswoman said.

Germany sides with Dimas

Meanwhile, Germany on Tuesday notably took sides with Greek commissioner Mr Dimas - not with its own commissioner Mr Verheugen.

German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel told journalists he is surprised that Mr Verheugen is not ready to impose legal measures on the car industry.

"The car industry is not against legal steps," said Mr Gabriel who comes from Europe's biggest car producing country which currently holds the EU presidency.

"Maybe the discussion the car industry has with Mr Verheugen is different than the one the car industry has with me," he told journalists in Brussels.

Mr Gabriel's comments come despite a letter by Mr Verheugen to Mr Barroso in November, in which he championed the cause of EU industrial competitiveness.

"We need to demonstrate environmental leadership, but there is no point in doing so if we have no followers — especially if this comes at significant cost to the EU economy," his letter stated.

"Our growth and jobs priority must not be endangered," Mr Verheugen wrote.

Merkel backs car lobby against EU emissions law

German chancellor Angela Merkel has joined the critics of a European Commission plan to limit car's average CO2 emissions, saying that different models should have different limits.

Commission wobbles on fight against climate change

The European Commission has proposed stricter standards on transport fuels in its fight against climate change. But critics call the move a diversion from the real problem caused by car emissions, on which the EU executive may soften its plans.

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Warsaw and Budapest seek EU funds despite national veto

A senior EU diplomat said Poland and Hungary should lift their veto or give a signal they are willing to do by Tuesday - otherwise there will be alternative plans for a recovery fund with the other 25 member states.

Budget deal struck, with Hungary threat still hanging

Ultimately, the European Parliament managed to squeeze an extra €16bn in total - which will be financed with competition fines the EU Commission hands out over the next seven years, plus reallocations within the budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Giuseppe Conte: scapegoat or Italy's most cunning politician?
  2. Borrell to meet Lavrov, while Navalny behind bars
  3. Too few central and eastern Europeans at top of EU
  4. Rift widens on 'returns' deadline in EU migration pact
  5. EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map
  6. Migrants in Bosnia: a disaster foretold on EU doorstep
  7. Navalny protests sharpen EU sanctions talks
  8. Why Russia politics threaten European security

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us