Tuesday

16th Jul 2019

Political deal done on EU oversight of car emissions

  • The European Commission will have the legal obligation to check if national authorities do a satisfactory job testing emissions (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The European Commission gained the right to check cars for emissions cheating on Thursday (7 December), more than two years after the beginning of the 'Dieselgate' scandal.

Just after noon on Thursday, the EU executive reached a deal on a reform of the EU's car type approval system with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU – representing national governments.

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

"We know that some car manufacturers were cheating and many others were exploiting loopholes," EU commissioner for industry Elzbieta Bienkowska said in a press release.

"To put an end to this, we are overhauling the whole system."

Bienkowska said that the "key elements" of what the commission proposed in January 2016 had been upheld, "including real EU oversight and enforcement powers".

Following the revelation in September 2015 that German car company Volkswagen Group had equipped some 8.5 million diesel cars with a software code that cheated the official emissions test, the commission proposed more EU oversight in a system that is still very much in the hands of the member states' authorities.

'May' vs 'shall'

The commission proposed legislation which said baldly that it "shall" carry out tests and inspections.

Member states, through the council, resisted this for months, saying that the bill should only say that the commission "may" do such tests. In the end, they agreed to the first, prescriptive version.

The commission will be able to fine companies up to €30,000 per vehicle if cheating software is detected, but the exact circumstances are not yet clear.

The council also got some of what it wanted.

Before Dieselgate broke, there was no real market surveillance of cars in Europe to speak of.

The new bill will explicitly lay out requirements for national market surveillance authorities.

MEPs had wanted to require that authorities in a specific country double-check 20 percent of all cars they approved.

The council however wanted checks for one in every 50,000 new vehicles, which in practice would be much less than what MEPs suggested.

Member states also wanted only one in every 200,000 new vehicles tested on their emissions.

The final deal amounts to checks for one in every 40,000 new vehicles, but the final share of cars facing extra testing on emissions remained the same: 0.0005 percent.

Brussels-based consumer umbrella organisation Beuc said in a press release that the requirements were less than they and MEPs wanted, but "nevertheless a step forward compared to the current situation".

Estonian economy minister Kadri Simon said it was "a balanced deal which delivers the necessary reforms".

"This new framework will help restore the credibility of the car sector. It will set up a transparent system with proper supervision, improve coordination at different levels and harmonise the application of EU rules," he said in a press release.

British MEP Daniel Dalton, a Conservative, called the deal the "final step in fixing a broken system which let down millions of people around Europe".

"Make no mistake, in future any manufacturers trying to cheat the system will be found out and properly punished," Dalton said.

However, environmental lobby group Transport & Environment said that new legislation alone is not enough.

"If the European Commission doesn't keep a tight grip on national car regulators and check their work robustly and regularly, dieselgate will happen again," it said.

The deal comes a day after former Volkswagen top official Oliver Schmidt was sentenced to seven years in jail and a $400,000 fine in the United States.

Schmidt had plead guilty to defrauding the US government.

US authorities have also come to a multibillion dollar settlement with Volkswagen which, by contrast, refused to pay any compensation for its cheating in the EU.

The EU countries responsible for approving the cars with illegal software however, have never fined Volkswagen Group (VW) or its subsidiaries.

The commission has started a legal procedure against these countries, including Germany, but since it started one year ago it has only consisted of letters being sent back and forth.

Last month, VW received a €450,000 fine – the highest amount possible – for misleading customers, from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets.

The deal still needs approval by the national governments and the plenary of the EU parliament.

A press release published on Thursday said that the plenary vote could be scheduled as late as April 2018.

Interview

Dieselgate disappointed car-loving commissioner

Industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska often finds herself on opposite sides to the car industry, referring to diesel engines as the "technology of the past".

Investigation

EU states forsook oversight on car emissions

An EUobserver investigation and EU parliament testimony paint a gloomy picture of how EU national authorities neglected to implement clean air car laws.

Exclusive

EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'

The EU Commission will now spend €3.4m next year to rent cars for emissions testing - after EUobserver revealed that models loaned by the manufacturer were then subject to commercial confidentiality clauses.

News in Brief

  1. Ansip's ex-cabinet chief to head EU cybersecurity agency
  2. Malta starts trial of journalist murder suspects
  3. Full text of von der Leyen candidacy speech to MEPs
  4. Von der Leyen open to further Brexit delay
  5. Von der Leyen promises carbon border tax
  6. Brexit: both UK PM candidates say Irish backstop is 'dead'
  7. Mogherini: Iran's nuclear enrichment 'reversible'
  8. Report: Selmayr to leave 'next week'

Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'

Following an investigation into the Dieselgate scandal, the European Parliament recommended a single commissioner should be responsible for both air quality and setting industrial standards. But only the Greens want to commit to carry out that advice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. European Commission has first ever woman president
  2. Son: Malta trial for murdered journalist 'not enough'
  3. Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post
  4. EU talks tough on Turkey, but arms sales go on
  5. The Abortion Exodus - more Poles and Croats going abroad
  6. Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again
  7. Von der Leyen reaches out to left and liberal MEPs
  8. Farmers among new MEPs deciding on EU farming money

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us