22nd Sep 2021

EU commission censors Porsche letters

  • Porsche's fleet of cars has particularly high emissions (Photo: Toni_V)

After years of stonewalling, the European Commission has released correspondence between the former industry commissioner and German carmaker Porsche.

The move follows an unprecedented attack by the European Ombudsman for its refusal to publish the material. But the letters put out into the open have large chunks of text blanked out.

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The remaining text is largely uncontroversial, concerning complaints by the company about the EU executive's attempts to limit carbon emissions from cars. Porsche's fleet of cars has particularly high emissions.

"Porsche is greatly disturbed by tendencies within the European Commission that could lead to our company being treated in a most unfair manner compared with competitors," the uncensored part of one letter says.

In 2007, at the height of a furious battle between green groups and car companies over whether the EU should legislate on carbon emissions from cars or accept voluntary pledges from industry, Friends of the Earth asked the commission for access to documents relating to meetings between then-industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen and car manufacturers.

The commission only gave partial access: It released 15 letters, but refused to hand over three letters from Porshe.

Many car companies at the time were writing similar letters complaining of the potential threat to profits.

Paul de Clerk, of Friends of the Earth told EUobserver: "They were all doing this, so this couldn't be the reason why the commission has refused to release the letters. But what is contained in the parts that have been blanked out?"

Last week in a report to the European Parliament, the EU Ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros, accused the EU executive of failing to co-operate with him in good faith, the first time since the 1995 establishment of the office of the ombudsman, who investigates citizen's complaints about maladministration in the European Union, that he had turned to the parliament in this way.

"The commission's unco-operative attitude in this regard risks eroding citizens' trust in the commission and undermining the capacity of the European obmudsman and the European Parliament adequately and effectively to supervise the commission," he said. "As such, it runs counter to the very principle of the rule of law on which the union is founded."

The ombudsman is to look into the reasons for the censorship of the letters and then decide whether to continue to pursue the matter.


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