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25th Feb 2024

Merkel and Sarkozy claim unity on car emissions

  • Mr Sarkozy (l) and Ms Merkel do not always see eye-to-eye (Photo: Consilium)

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel have said they have achieved "an important breakthrough" on controversial EU plans to reduce car emissions.

After holding talks in the German town of Straubing on Monday (9 June), the two leaders threw their weight behind a European Commission proposal to limit average CO2 emissions of new cars to 120 grammes/km from 2012.

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"We have made an important breakthrough on this subject where initially our positions were very, very far apart," Ms Merkel said, according to media reports, adding she was "very happy to be able to say that we both support the EU goal."

However, while backing the mandatory target as such, the two countries have also called for a "substantial" period to introduce such caps and for a softer line on penalties imposed if industry fails to deliver.

Under the EU's executive body proposal, new passenger cars entering the market in 2012 should have a mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) emission cap of 120 grammes/km. If the binding target is missed, manufacturers will be fined €20 per gramme over the limit in 2012, rising to €35 in 2013, €60 in 2014, and €95 in 2015.

France and Germany have previously clashed over the issue due to different market positions. While Germany is the chief producer of large, heavy vehicles such as BMW, Daimler and Porsche, French carmakers produce lighter, more energy-efficient automobiles, such as Peugeot and Renault.

"The details will still have to be worked out by our environment ministers, but we believe that this is giant step forward," Ms Merkel said about the compromise deal.

Paris is set to deal with the hot potato during the second half of this year, as the country assumes the EU presidency chair in July.

Oil prices caps

French president Nicolas Sarkozy also used the bilateral meeting with his German counterpart to push his proposal to introduce Europe-wide fuel tax cuts in the face of ongoing protests by truckers at the soaring cost of petrol.

"I have explained my position on oil taxes. The governments of all countries should think about it," Mr Sarkozy said, urging EU leaders to "find a common position when the time comes."

The idea has met with grumbling hostility around EU capitals from the start, with Ms Merkel saying on Monday "We have not taken a decision."

The European Commission, for its part, has previously warned that any subsidies or tax cuts would only play into hands of oil-exporting countries.

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