Wednesday

17th Jan 2018

Dieselgate committee rejects 'witch-hunt' gibe

  • From left to right: Chairwoman Kathleen Van Brempt (Flemish), vice-chair Ivo Belet (Flemish), vice-chair Mark Demesmaeker (Flemish), and Karima Delli (French) (Photo: European Parliament)

The newly appointed chairwoman of the European Parliament's inquiry into the “dieselgate” scandal, where car companies cheated in emissions tests, has rejected accusations that her committee could become a witch-hunt against the car industry.

Centre-left Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt, who was appointed as the committee's chairwoman without a vote on Wednesday (2 March), said she would not have accepted leadership of a "naming and shaming committee".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • EPP member Karins said his group will "prevent this committee from becoming what could be termed as a witch-hunt" (Photo: European Parliament)

The committee will investigate how much the European Commission and national governments knew about the use of illegal software that allowed firms like Volkswagen to cheat in emissions tests, a scandal that was uncovered by US authorities.

“I am interested in finding out what went wrong with the implementation of the legislation, the supervision of that legislation,” she said.

“How is it possible that this was discovered in the United States, and not by our own European authorities?”

She was responding to comments made by Latvian MEP Krisjanis Karins, a member of the centre-right EPP.

He said the EPP would “do its utmost to prevent this committee from becoming what could be termed as a witch-hunt, either against industry or against diesel technologies where Europe has a competitive advantage in the world”.

'Unhelpful' language

After the meeting, EUobserver asked Karins to explain the origin of his group's fear of a witch-hunt.

“We have spoken with all of our colleagues from all political groups for a long time, regarding these issues. There are various strong statements coming from some active members in this committee that are pointing in just this direction,” said Karins.

When asked to name those members, Karins only said: “I think that will become pretty clear as time goes on.”

Seb Dance, from the socialist group, said it was “unhelpful to use such politically charged terms before the committee has even begun its work”.

“It shows that there will be challenges ahead, most definitely in terms of the perception from within the committee of its remit, but no, it's most definitely not a witch-hunt,” the Labour politician said.

“We are here to look at the relationship between the automotive sector, and the institutions of the European Union, to make sure that we have a situation where the public can have trust in the automotive industry.”

'Build bridges'

Van Brempt was one of three Belgians, all from the Dutch-speaking Flanders region, appointed to lead the committee.

Ivo Belet from the centre-right EPP group, and Mark Demesmaeker, from the conservative ECR group, will serve as vice-chairs.

The other two vice-chairs are Czech communist MEP Katerina Konecna and French Green Karima Delli.

Van Brempt told this website that the Flemish connection was a coincidence.

But she said a possible asset was that Flemish politicians had become used to “building bridges and finding compromises”, something that would be a requirement to end up with a “strong report”.

Alternative inquiry

But other MEPs questioned whether the committee's mandate went far enough.

The three committee members from the far-left European United Left/Nordic Green Left group told a press conference that they would hold a parallel investigation, because they were “disappointed” in the breadth of the inquiry committee's mandate.

“Unfortunately, the mandate given to the inquiry committee leaves out important issues, such as the responsibility of the enterprises, as well as the workers' rights and their future,” Cypriot MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis said.

Katerina Konecna said her group would “dig deep into this shameful scandal”. However, their “emission working group” would not have the same investigative powers as the official inquiry committee, of which Konecna is one of the vice-chairs.

“We just have to use all the power and all those instruments we have to find out what is the situation in the companies with those people who are working inside it,” said her Finnish colleague Merja Kyllonen, adding that they would “visit different countries” and invite guests to speak at seminars.

Meanwhile, the inquiry committee will have its first substantive meeting on Tuesday 22 March, during which it will lay out its methodology. Ahead of that meeting, the political groups' coordinators will meet next week in Strasbourg.

EP Dieselgate committee packed with opponents

The European Parliament has backed the composition of the committee to shed light on the diesel emissions scandal. But a third of its members are unconvinced of its utility.

MEPs to probe what EU knew on Dieselgate

MEPs to investigate if commission and national governments did enough to stop use of cheat software on emissions tests, Inquiry committee to have access to sensitive documents.

EUobserved

UK silent on EU origins of plastic bags law

UK prime minister Theresa May is expected to announce that a ban on free plastic bags will extend to all shops. By doing so, the UK will fulfil a requirement of an EU directive.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  3. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  4. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  5. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  6. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  7. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  8. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  10. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  11. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  12. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology

Latest News

  1. Post-Brexit trade roll-over not automatic, EU paper says
  2. Oettinger pushes plastic tax but colleagues express doubts
  3. MEPs target exports of cyber surveillance tech
  4. Kosovo killing halts EU talks in Brussels
  5. ECB withheld information on 'flawed' bank supervision
  6. Fewer MEPs than visitors turn up for Estonian PM
  7. EU names China and Russia as top hackers
  8. Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  2. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  6. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  8. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  9. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  10. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  11. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla