EP Dieselgate committee packed with opponents
By Peter Teffer
One third of the members of the European Parliament's committee for inquiring into government responsibility for the diesel emissions scandal voted against the establishment of the committee.
On Thursday afternoon (21 January), the EP's plenary in Strasbourg rubber-stamped the appointment of 45 members of the 'committee of inquiry on emission measurements in the automotive sector'.
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But according to an analysis by VoteWatch and EUobserver, fifteen of them had voted against the proposal to set up the committee.
The vote in December 2015 was won with 354 votes in favour, 229 votes against, and 35 abstentions. Opposition came mostly from the two groups on the political right, the European People's Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).
The groups selected internally the members they wanted to nominate for the committee, rather than by plenary vote.
The fifteen inquiry members who voted against its creation in December are all EPP or ECR members. The four EPP members who rebelled and voted in favour of the committee were not nominated.
In contrast, while Belgian ECR parliamentarian Mark Demesmaeker went against his colleagues by voting Yes, he was put forward by his colleagues as a committee member. The other members the ECR selected for the committee had voted against.
The committee will investigate the role of the European Commission and member state governments in the scandal involving Volkswagen diesel cars. The German car manufacturer had installed illegal software used to cheat emissions tests.
French MEP Francoise Grossetete (EPP), who had voted against, said in a press release that the centre-right MEPs “will be vigilant to ensure that the mandate is respected and that the committee does not become a diesel fuel trial”.
“This inquiry should not turn into an inquisition court, but instead come up with ideas for solutions,” noted Grossetete.
The investigation will aim to find out if the commission and governments did enough to attempt to prevent such cheating.
Among its members are German MEP Rebecca Harms, co-president of the Greens group, which has been one of the loudest voices calling for an EP inquiry committee.
“We will work to ensure this inquiry committee carries out a rigorous investigation and makes robust recommendations for EU follow-up,” said Harms in a press statement Thursday, repeating what she said in December.
Already in October 2015, the Greens group had tried to establish an inquiry committee, “in order to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the role and responsibility of the commission and of member state authorities in the lack of implementation and enforcement of the EU law”.
But while at the time of the vote, 27 October, there were already signs that the European Commission may have known more about emissions cheating than it had admitted, this was apparently not enough to persuade a majority in the parliament to support an EP inquiry.
The proposed amendment calling for an inquiry committee failed to get the support of most members from the three largest groups.
In fact, of the 45 members of the inquiry committee, 29 voted against that amendment in October.
French MEP Christine Revault d'Allonnes Bonnefoy is the only socialist in the inquiry committee who voted in favour of its establishment both in October and in December. The other ten socialists were initially against.
The committee's 45 members come from 21 member states, with no representation from Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, or Slovenia.
It will begin its work in February. In its first meeting, it will name its chairperson and co-chairs.