Tuesday

20th Nov 2018

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.

EU to review animal welfare strategy

European Court of Auditors found there were "still some significant discrepancies between the animal welfare standards established in the EU legislation and the reality on the ground".

News in Brief

  1. Hungary grants asylum to ex-Macedonia PM
  2. UK court rules against government in Article 50 case
  3. May to meet Juncker on Wednesday to finalise Brexit deal
  4. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  5. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  6. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  7. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  8. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque

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. Boycott threats mount on eve of Interpol election
  2. EU parliament to renege on transparency promises
  3. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  4. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  5. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  6. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  7. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  8. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges

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