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17th Feb 2019

Ministers refuse to come to Brussels for diesel summit

  • A month after EU commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska had sent invitations, only two EU ministers had confirmed their attendance of a diesel summit (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Just two ministers in charge of car industry affairs have been willing to travel to Brussels to attend a diesel summit, the commission revealed on Tuesday (27 November).

A meeting that had been supposed to be a 'diesel summit', held on Tuesday afternoon, has been downgraded to a meeting of civil servants, representing half of the EU's member states.

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"This afternoon's meeting is part of the European commission's work to improve air quality in Europe and its efforts to address the emissions scandal, Dieselgate," a commission spokeswoman told journalists at the commission's daily press conference on Tuesday.

Originally, industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska had invited 15 ministers - from Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia and United Kingdom.

"We had confirmations from two ministers only," said the spokeswoman.

These two were the ministers from Luxembourg and Romania.

A week before the scheduled summit, the commission decided to cancel the ministerial part of the meeting, and invite lower-level civil servants instead, from all 28 EU countries.

"Given the overall limited level of confirmation at ministerial level, we decided to change the format of the meeting," she added.

Germany had no idea

According to the commission, the invitation letters to ministers had been sent on 12 October.

But last week, German transport minister Andreas Scheuer recorded a video message, saying he had been telling the commission "for months" he was unavailable on the planned date.

"I did not know about any diesel summit," said the centre-right minister.

He said he was open to have a future discussion about diesel – but on a another day.

Tuesday's meeting meanwhile will be held with representatives from ministries from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

It takes place three years and two months after it emerged that Volkswagen Group had equipped millions of diesel cars with cheating devices.

The scandal, which became known as Dieselgate, quickly spread to other carmakers as well. It became apparent that national authorities in charge of making sure no emissions cheating took place, had neglected to carry out that task.

Even now, there are still millions of cars that emit levels of toxic nitrogen oxides far beyond the EU limit.

The commission spokeswoman said that Tuesday's meeting would prepare the ground for a conference on the future of the car industry – which is planned to take place in the first half of 2019, when Romania holds the temporary six-month EU presidency.

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