Thursday

15th Nov 2018

EU Commission discussed emissions cheating in 2013

European industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska may have misinformed MEPs in the aftermath of the Volkswagen diesel scandal, by saying the Commission had "no indication" that car manufacturers were gaming the system of emissions testing.

The Financial Times revealed on Sunday (25 October) that as early as February 2013, at least two European commissioners were aware of car companies trying to conform to lab tests rather than reduce emissions of pollutants on the road.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 'There are widespread concerns that performance has been tailored tightly to compliance with the test cycle'. (Photo: cosmo flash)

The British paper published a letter exchange between the environment and industry commissioners at the time, Slovenian Janez Potocnik and Italian Antonio Tajani, respectively.

Potocnik pointed out there was a "significant discrepancy between the certified emissions and those actually observed on the road". He noted this discrepancy is "a primary reason" why EU countries were unable to adhere to air quality limit values.

The commissioner also wrote that it appeared car manufacturers were producing their cars to pass the test, rather than to reduce emissions.

"There are widespread concerns that performance has been tailored tightly to compliance with the test cycle in disregard of the dramatic increase in emissions outside that narrow scope", Potocnik wrote.

"Vehicles are required to comply with the Euro limit values in normal driving conditions, and my services and I are often put in an uncomfortable position when defending the perceived lack of action by the Commission and member states in addressing the obvious failure to ensure this", he added.

But last September, American authorities revealed that Europe's largest car manufacturer Volkswagen had been using illegal software – called 'defeat devices' – to cheat on emission tests. The cars' software "knew" when it was being tested and switched to a more economical mode than it would during normal driving conditions.

Following the revelations, many wondered why the scandal was not uncovered by European authorities. During a fierce debate at a European Parliament plenary session earlier in October, MEPs fired question after question towards Tajani's successor, industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska.

She denied that the Commission could have known about the scandal.

"The European Commission has not received any information before [the] official information of [US environmental agency] EPA. And not any piece of information was received by us, neither from EPA nor from any member state", she told MEPs.

In a written response, sent later this month, the Polish commissioner repeated her line.

"The Commission had no indications of defeat devices being used by car manufacturers in Europe", the response said.

"The risk of defeat devices was ... known to the Commission and Member States, but the Commission was not aware of any actual instances of fraud", wrote Bienkowska.

On Tuesday (27 October), the European Parliament will vote on a non-binding resolution about the emissions scandal. It will vote whether to call for an EU-wide investigation on emissions testing compliance.

If the Commission does carry out such an investigation, it may clear up allegations surrounding a second car manufacturer, which did the rounds last week.

A German environmental lobby group said it found that compared to lab tests, Opel diesel cars were emitting up to 17 times more NOx during normal driving conditions. Opel, a subsidiary company of General Motors, denied the accusations as "wrong and unfounded".

EU environment ministers will discuss the emissions scandal later on Monday in Luxembourg.

"We need a car industry which does not cheat, but respects air quality and our health", said Luxembourgish minister Carole Dieschbourg ahead of the meeting.

Dispute over report EU officials brought VW scam to light

A German magazine says that frustrated EU Commission officials tipped off an American NGO to dig into Volkswagen cheating car emissions tests, but the NGO in question has denied the suggestion of commission whistleblowers.

News in Brief

  1. Frontex: Spain now main destination for migrants
  2. German AfD funding scandal widens
  3. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published
  4. UK cabinet agrees Brexit deal after marathon session
  5. Czechs join other EU states in rejecting UN migration pact
  6. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  7. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  8. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency

Opinion

Crunch time to end overfishing in the EU

What happens when a difficult deadline hits? This is precisely what is being played out in EU fisheries as we approach the landmark legal commitment under the Common Fisheries Policy to end overfishing by 2020.

Opinion

No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected

Following the 2030 renewable target of 32 percent, chair of the European Parliament's environment committee Adina Valean argues in order to reach our climate and energy goals, we need both public and private investment over the next decade and beyond.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  2. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  3. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  4. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  5. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  6. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  7. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  8. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us